‘A big part of me is now missing’ – Tinker Air Force employee and veteran dies of COVID-19

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A 68-year-old Air Force veteran and longtime Tinker employee died of COVID-19 Wednesday morning with his wife by his side. His death is on the same day Oklahoma saw one of its highest number of single-day recorded deaths due to the virus.

“I prayed over him,” Esther Saldana said. “I talked to him and told him, ‘When it’s time to go, you need to go,’ and I was okay with it.”

Esther Saldana spoke to KFOR just hours after coming home from INTEGRIS Portland, taking in her empty Oklahoma City home for the first time.

“This is an ugly virus,” Esther Saldana said. “This is ugly. I watched it take my husband away.”

Jerry Saldana died of COVID-19 Wednesday morning.

The two were married for 15 years.

“When he went onto the ventilator, I knew,” Esther Saldana said.

Two weeks ago, the 68-year-old Air Force veteran was rushed to the emergency room, barely able to breathe. Within a few days, he was quickly hooked up to tubes and forced into a coma.

“We watched him from that point on just decline,” Esther Saldana said.

At the time, Esther was recovering from COVID-19 herself. She was the first to test positive in late September.

“Just going through this experience has been awful,” Esther Saldana said.

Jerry’s family tells KFOR he’s known for his selfless personality and infectious smile.

He’s also a father of five, a grandparent, a great-grandparent and a longtime Tinker Air Force employee.

“A big part of me is now missing,” Esther Saldana said. “I am at peace and I know he is too.”

The Saldanas are preparing to have a service in Oklahoma City, but Jerry will be buried in his hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas.

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