Final Hero's Homecoming for Visalia Soldier Killed in Afghanistan
VISALIA, Calif. (KMPH) —
Hundreds of American Flags waved in the wind, to the sounds of Native American drums, welcoming Army Private First Class Keith Williams back to the Visalia Tuesday afternoon.
It would be the 19-year-old's last time making the trip, after losing his life July 27th in Afghanistan.
Veterans looked on, including Greg Vincent looked on.
Vincent is part of the Patriot Guard, which escorts members of the military homealive or not.
"I've been to about 300 of these," he says. ""I'm a Vietnam Veteran. For me this is closure... I don't want to see anyone do to them, what was done to us."
Members of the Patriot Guard, and Native American veterans, joined PFC Williams' family, reciting prayers and beating drums to celebrate his spirit and Native American heritage.
The motorcade then escorted PFC Williams' body through the streets of Visalia, one final time.
They passed by his alma mater, El Diamante High School.
He graduated from the school just 14 months ago, in 2013.
Army Staff Sergeant Daren Carter looked on, in his camouflage uniform.
"To lose your life in combat, sacrificing for our country, is the highest honor you can achieve," said SSGT Carter. "He is a true hero."
Retired U.S. Marine Corporal Michael Rodriguez brought along his two and five year old children.
"I was telling my daughter on the way here, 'we're gonna see a hero.' She said, 'Oh, in a cape?' I said no, in Army digital camouflage, like daddy used to wear," says Cpl. Rodriguez. "There's guys that don't come home and made the ultimate sacrifice. They're all heroes."
A couple of yards away, Caitlyn Dollar held onto dog tags around her neck.
They belong to her boyfriend, who is stationed out of NAS Lemoore.
She was friends with PFC Williams.
"It hit home," she says. "I don't know what he would say. I know he'd have a really big smile on his face because everyone is out here to support him."
Vivian Moeller joined other friends in holding up an American flag, on the corner of Whitendale and Akers.
"My husband is retired Army and I have a son in the Marine Corps. I feel closely to this," she says.
She says this is not the first time she's lined a military funeral procession.
"We wish we didn't have to do this," she says. "We all care, and we love our servicemen, even though we don't know them personally."
PFC Williams family has opened memorial services to the public.
Friday night, a service will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Salser and Dillard Funeral Chapel in Visalia, on Court and Caldwell.
Another service will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at Visalia Assembly of God.
It will be followed by a celebration of life at El Diamante High School, which will include military honors and a Native American tribute.