Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
TOOELE -- Less than a month after leaving Utah, Pfc. Jordan Byrd returned home Tuesday morning, though not the way his family would have ever wanted.
"Of course we want our son back, but we're very, very proud of his service to our country, and to his soldiers," said Scott Pitt, Byrd's stepfather.
He was a defender. He defended those who couldn't defend themselves. He always stuck up for others.
–- Scott Pitt
Byrd was shot and killed in Afghanistan last week.
His body arrived on a chartered plane to the Utah Air National Guard base in Salt Lake City about 9:30 Tuesday morning.
Byrd was an Army medic with the 101st Airborne and was helping another soldier who had been shot when he himself was hit.
"Jordan responded immediately to his downed solider, and was rendering aid when Jordan was struck by a sniper," said Pitt, "He was a defender. He defended those who couldn't defend themselves. He always stuck up for others."
Samantha Stromberg echoed that statement.
She attended Dugway High School with Byrd and was one of several people lining the streets to welcome his body home.
"Jordan never said anything bad to anybody," said Stromberg. "He was always nice to the people no one else would talk to. He always had a smile on his face. I don't think I ever saw Jordan down."
Byrd was in Utah just last month to be with his wife for the birth of their only son, Ayden.
In fact, the Army gave him permission to deploy late to Afghanistan so he could be there for Ayden's birth.
"We ask for everybody, if they see Ayden, to kiss him twice. Once for you, and once for Jordan," said Jeremy Beck, a family friend.
After leaving the Utah Air National Guard Base, a procession along I-80 into Tooele included thousands of American flags lining Highway 36.
"We're just here to support him for what he did for our country and for his family," said Stacy Landis, a Tooele County resident. "We've been talking about doing this ever since we found out last week that he had been killed."
Byrd graduated from Dugway High School last year.
Monday night, a candlelight vigil was held for him outside the school, where classmates held a ceremony to retire his baseball jersey number.
"Jordan was a baseball player on the baseball team," said Col. William King, the commander of Dugway Proving Ground, "so those students who knew him, and even some who didn't know him too well, decided to go out to our baseball field and retire his number."
"I think it's amazing he wasn't even 20 years old, yet he was out there fighting for our freedom," said Stromberg. "He was doing something men are out there doing, and he was right there alongside them doing just as well."
It's a sacrifice no one here will ever forget.
The soldier who Byrd was helping when he was shot survived.
"Jordan left us a hero," said Pitt.
Byrd's family wanted to thank everyone who came out to support them.
A viewing for Private Byrd is set for Thursday evening in Tooele. He will be buried in the Grantsville cemetery Friday afternoon with full military honors.
A trust fund has been set up for Ayden Byrd at the Dugway Federal Credit Union.