Hundreds of people gathered in Melbourne on Thursday as a Brevard County soldier who died in Afghanistan was brought home to be laid to rest.
The huge crowd lined the streets into and surrounding Melbourne International Airport, waving American flags and paying tribute to U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Pablo Ruiz, who died May 24 in a non-combat relaed incident in Bagram, north of Kabul.
A chartered jet carrying Ruiz's body flew in around 10 a.m. from Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware. Ruiz's family and friends waited on the tarmac for the flight to arrive.
The Melbourne and Palm Bay police departments, along with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office Motor Unit, helped escort the procession from the airport and along the route to the funeral home.
Several local military groups came to pay their respects. Fellow veterans sad it was about being there for Ruiz's family.
"This is one way I support our troops here," said veteran Michael Foley. "We need to bring them home, bring closure to the family, and we are here to support the family with whatever they need."
A visitation service for Ruiz is scheduled Thursday night at the Fountainhead Funeral Home in Palm Bay.
Ruiz, 37, was assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and a veteran of three tours of duty in Iraq. His death remains under investigation.
While in Afghanistan, Ruiz served as the food service operations manager for the base's dining facility.
Ruiz was a mentor in the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors as he assisted families of fallen service members.
The body of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Pablo Ruiz arrives May 27 at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. (PHOTO/U.S. Air Force)
A funeral service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday, at the Florida Institute of Technology's Gleason Performing Arts Center.
A celebration of life will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Beach House at Patrick Air Force Base.
Ruiz is survived by his wife of 20 years and his daughter.