H-SANTA MARIA

Sep 3, 2013 8:18 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Fallen soldier's body returned home to Santa Maria

The body of a 23-year old soldier was flown into the Santa Maria Airport on Tuesday.

Army Specialist Kenneth Alvarez from Santa Maria was killed in Afghanistan on August 23 when his unit was attacked.

Only the slight hum of the plane could be heard as the body of Alvarez was carried to the awaiting hearse.

Not everyone who came out to the airport on Tuesday was related to him. Some had never met him

"As far as most of us, if not all of us, are concerned, we're all family, we're all brothers," said a group of veterans paying their respects.

"We got a veteran who died in the line of duty. We owe him that honor," said another.

Family, friends and strangers gathered around the casket and for nearly 30 minutes, they held each other, wiped away tears, and welcomed Alvarez home for the last time.

"What's going through my heart is how these young men go fight for our freedom and how the price of freedom is not free," said Alvarez's uncle Leo Santos.

Scores of veterans arrived to escort their fallen brother.

"This is our way of showing our respect for them sacrificing their lives," said another veteran.

Members of the Patriot Guard and American Legion Riders followed the funeral cars, many of the bikes adorned with American flags.

"Because of a brave young man like my nephew Kenny, that's what keeps us going as Americans," said Santos. "So we have to remember that. We have to not forget how that freedom comes about for all of us."

Spc. Kenneth Alvarez leaves behind a wife and small child, as well as a large extended family in Santa Maria. A private memorial service will be held on Wednesday.

A public memorial service will be held Thursday in Orcutt at Saint Louis de Montfort Church at 9:30 am. It will be followed by a reception at the Santa Maria Elks Club.

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