As fallen soldier comes home, Alta turns out to honor Botello
Brian Botello has come home.
The 19-year-old Alta soldier who gave his life last week on duty in Iraq arrived by charter jet Monday at the Storm Lake Airport in a flag-draped casket.
The sun bowed out of the dark clouds briefly just prior to the plane landing and his sister, Jamie, noticed. "Maybe God wanted it to shine for Brian."
No one could disagree.
Gathered to meet their hero were the young man's parents - Karyn Brophy, Alta, and Tony Botello, Muskegon, Mich., and many relatives and friends. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars from Alta and Cherokee stood in formation to salute the fallen soldier. Six members of the Iowa Army National Guard, 194th Field Artillery, stepped forward to carry the casket from the plane to the awaiting Barker Funeral Home car which transported him back to his home town of Alta.
Dean Brand, Iowa Honor Guard Coordinator, said that the Department of Defense ensures that every fallen soldier is met by an honor guard. Brian will be buried at a national cemetery in Fayetteville, Ark.; the honor guard will be present again to carry their comrade back to a waiting plane, bound for his final destination.
Alta band director and saxophonist Katie Lorenzen shared hymns and the AHS school song was performed after the plane landed. As a musician and a multi-sport Cyclones athlete, one bystander reflected, Brian would have enjoyed the songs.
Several members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a volunteer group comprised of motorcyclists veterans and their supporters, with unwavering respect for those who risk their lives for America's freedom, were invited by the family to be present.
"We don't care what you ride or if you ride, what your political views are, or whether you're a hawk or a dove. It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn't matter where you're from or what your income is; you don't even have to ride. The only prerequisite is respect," the members stated.
The mission of the group is to "show sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities and shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protester or group of protesters."
The motorcycles escorted the hearse in a missing man formation, and the remainder of the members followed the procession of family members.
The vehicles made their way through Alta, passing Brian's church - Summit - and passing by the schools he attended.
Students and teachers and community members of all ages waved flags as the vehicles passed. Resident Jennifer Marshall (shown on front page holding a child) said she wasn't acquainted with Brian, but propped up two chairs, draped a flag over them, and stood to pay her respects. She said it was important to show respect for the young soldier. Trees were wrapped in yellow ribbons in support of the family, and the Main Street was adorned with flags.
Clustered together, for support, were a group of Brian's friends from the Class of 2005.
What will they remember about their friend? "Everything," they said.
"He always had a smile on his face. He was so goofy. He was a great guy," members of the group said, knowing that Wednesday, funeral day, will be one of the toughest days any of them will have to bear. But they will be there, together, at the funeral of their friend, and will honor him for his sacrifice.
Brian entered the U.S. Army shortly after his high school graduation and had recently re-enlisted for another five years, intending to make the Army his career.
He was killed in an explosion while on patrol, as part of a team attempting to stabilize the Baghdad region and make it safe for residents.
SPC Botello's nine military awards include the Bronze STAR Medal, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Combat Action Badge.
Funeral services will be Wednesday at Summit Church at 2:30 p.m. Burial will be at the Fayetteville National Cemetery, Fayetteville, Ark., on Friday. Visitation is today from 4- 8 pm with the family present 6-8 p.m. at the Summit Evangelical Free Church.