Only weeks before his deployment was to end, Army Sgt. Eric Williams was killed July 23 in Logar Province, Afghanistan—south of Kabul.
Thursday afternoon, his flag-draped casket arrived via private jet at Camp Pendleton with his wife and family present. On a sun-splashed Tarmac, they witnessed an angels ceremony, followed by a procession of Patriot Guard Riders, a Murrieta Fire Department engine and American Medical Response ambulances along Interstate 15
Once in Murrieta, a crowd of hundreds greeted the procession.
Williams, 27, was deployed with the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, NC.
A flight medic for the Army, Williams kept up a blog that he started in 2008. According to his last blog post dated July 17, he was to be heading home soon.
“This deployment is coming to an end, in a few days we will be on a plane back to the United States to rejoin our family and friends and to try to readjust to a certain semblance of what we think life should be,” Williams wrote. “Cannot begin to describe the things we’ve seen, felt, or heard. We have lost brothers and colleagues.”
Williams was a 2002 graduate of Murrieta Valley High School.
A close friend, Rosario Boga, told Patch she knew him for nine years.
“He came home in January and we all hung out,” Boga said. “He was a die-hard hero in all our eyes.”
According to Boga, Williams’ wife, Wendi, “is being as strong as she can be right now.”
Flags at the state Capitol in Sacramento were flown at half-staff Monday in remembrance of the soldier.
“On behalf of all Californians, Governor Brown and First Lady Anne Gust Brown honor Sgt. Eric E. Williams, who bravely gave his life in service to our state and nation. The Governor and First Lady extend their deepest condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time,” the governor's office said in a news release.
Boga last week said she understood he would be returning to Fort Bragg before coming home to Murrieta in August or September.
“We were planning a huge surprise party for him,” she said.
A public memorial service is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, at Cornerstone Community Church in Wildomar.