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Minnesotan believed to be the first active-duty Air Force member to die of COVID

His family says he died of COVID-19 while he was stationed in Italy.

A Minnesota man stationed in Italy died of COVID-19, his family and friends say, marking the first active duty Air Force member to die of the virus. 

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael Morris of the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron died Jan. 12, according to a Jan. 14 news release from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. Morris, 36, was from Cass Lake, Minnesota, and served in the military for 14 years, his obituary says.

“The Airmen of the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Aviano are deeply saddened by this loss,” Maj. Christopher Clark, 31st AMXS commander said in a statement. “Mike was well known and highly respected in our community. He was a friend to many and we’ll miss him dearly.”

The Air Force said his cause of death is under investigation. However, a Jan. 21 obituary published in the Grand Rapids Herald Review says he died of COVID-19. 

The Air Force confirmed to Air Force Times that Morris did have COVID-19 at the time of his death. 

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Morris was not hospitalized at the time of his death, Stars and Stripes notes. Morris' death would be the fourth COVID-related death among active duty service members.

Morris is the cousin of Minnesota state Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, who tweeted about his death on Friday, noting his body still isn't home in Minnesota. 

According to his obituary, Morris was married to his wife Amanda, had three children and loved military life, noting he was deployed three times to Iraq, twice to Afghanistan and once to Sicily, Italy. 

"Michael’s children were his pride and joy. He most loved spending time with Amanda and his children and also enjoyed fishing, hunting, wrestling, grilling, the Vikings, pets, the beach, and staying fit," his obit said, noting he loved to joke and tease people, especially his kids, nieces and nephews. 

When his body does make it back to Minnesota, a private memorial service will be held with full military honors, the obituary notes. He will be interned at the Leech Lake Veterans Cemetery.

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