East Texas soldier back home; funeral set for Saturday - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

TYLER (KLTV)

East Texas soldier back home; funeral set for Saturday

A beloved East Texas soldier is now home. 21 year old Army Specialist Heath Pickard of Brushy Creek was killed last Thursday in a mortar attack. The family invited KLTV 7 to be there as Heath arrived back in East Texas to a hero's welcome Wednesday morning.

As the sun came up, one East Texas family gathered at the airport in Tyler to welcome one of their own, home at last.

On the plane - the body of Army Specialist Heath Pickard.

You could have heard a pin drop. Acting as an Honor Guard were the Patriot Guard Riders and Welcome Home Soldiers.

Heath, a 2006 Frankston High School graduate, was joined by many of his classmates. Heath played both football and baseball there, and the school has dedicated Friday's football game to Heath.

"We took a bus load of seniors to meet Heath as he got off the plane,"  said Cindy Carlson, Heath's 7th and 9th grade English teacher. "He's a hero. He's our hometown hero now."

"It was a weird experience because I've never known anybody that has died serving our country, and it's really amazing seeing everybody come together as a community," said Taylar Tompson, a senior at Frankston and friend.

The entire school district lined the street with flags as Heath's body went through town, an act to honor him.

"Until this morning I didn't believe it until they pulled that casket out and it had him," said Bo Walker.

"It's really weird. It doesn't really hit you until you see the casket come out that you're like wow, that's him now," said Taylar. "It's really sad to have him gone. He died doing what he wanted to do. He wanted to go protect our country."

"He died doing what he wanted to do," said Bo.

A brave hero will soon be laid to rest, with a final homecoming and goodbye. Most of Heath's family was there. His wife Sara and four month old son, Ethan, were at a memorial service held today at his base in Ft. Wainwright, Alaska. They'll be flying in tomorrow. Funeral services will be Saturday morning at 10:00 am at Evangelistic Temple in Palestine.

Danielle Capper, reporting. dcapper@kltv.com

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