BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A procession was held for tech sergeant Mark Smith. He is the airman who died earlier this month while in Okinawa.
Smith would have turned 31 in October. He was a family man who will always be remembered for his many years in the service.
Jesse Aranda remembers the last time he spoke with Smith. It was over social media days before he passed away.
"I was talking to him. I said good-bye to him and I said 'I love you and I will pray for you.' He said, yes please pray for me. I said I will and I'll talk to you soon. We figured in a couple of days we'll be talking to him again and it never happened," he said.
Smith died in a helicopter crash during a routine training mission. He leaves behind two daughters and a family who loved him dearly.
"It's difficult for the family, for the entire family and they miss him. They really miss him. The girls really miss their father," said Aranda.
Smith was in the service for 13 years. He was a quiet, loving father and husband who enjoyed traveling with his girls. They recently went on a trip to Disney. His remains were brought back from Japan and escorted from LAX to Bakersfield by the Patriot Guard Riders.
"It's the least we can do for these men and women," said Larry Gillette of the Southern Joaquin Valley Patrol Guard Riders.
The riders work closely with family members as they pay tribute and work hard to make sure others know of Smith's sacrifice.
"It helps them to know there are others, like us, out there that care about what happens to their sons, their daughters, nieces, nephews, whatever the relationship is and they know they are not alone in this tragic process that goes on in this particular time," said Gillette.
There is a visitation scheduled for Friday evening, followed by a service on Saturday. The family will then fly to Arlington National Cemetery where Smith will be laid to rest.