By Keith Eldridge Published: Jul 14, 2009 at 4:54 PM PDT
HOQUIAM, Wash. — Pfc. Aaron Fairbairn left home to join the Army a year and a half ago. On Tuesday the body of the 20-year-old soldier was flown home and welcomed with full honors.
Fairbairn was serving in Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade Combat Team when a Taliban suicide bomber drove a truck full of explosives into his military camp on July 4.
His family had just talked with him the day before the attack after a week without contact because phones in the military base were down.
“You try not to think the worst, but it does come out and then we heard from him, it was great,” said Fairbairn’s brother, Beau Beck. “And 12 hours later we get the news. It’s just unbelievable.”
At Bowerman Field in Hoquiam on Tuesday, Patriot Guard Riders stood at attention as the flag-draped casket was lowered from a private jet provided by the military.
Fairbairn’s family and friends were there, along with people who’d never met the young solder but wanted to show their support.
“You can see the support,” Beck said. “He was a soldier and that’s a lot of it, but he has a lot of friends around here, and it was a great turnout to honor him.”
Beck was able to accompany his brother’s body on the flight back from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“That was the biggest honor for me, as his brother, to fly back and bring him back to his hometown.”
John Harpe was among the motorcycle riders who took part in the ceremony honoring Fairbairn at the request of the soldier’s family.
“I want to let the military service know that the folks back home support them in every aspect of their lives, and we’ll be here in their darkest hour as well,” he said.
A procession of motorcycles, fire engines and private vehicles escorted Fairbairn’s body home from the airport.
“The community came out and showed their respect for a soldier, a brother a friend,” Beck said.
Fairbairn joined the Army after he graduated from Aberdeen High School, and a public memorial will be held there at 11 a.m. on Saturday.