The Yoder family had the tough task of bringing their son's remains from the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware back home to Berks County on Thursday.
As they prepare to say goodbye, Chief Warrant Ofc. Jarett Yoder is being remembered for his constant smile, positive attitude and unwavering courage.
Yoder, 26, of Brecknock Twp., Berks Co., and Matthew Ruffner, of Harrisburg, were killed in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday. They are the first casualties from the aviation community out of Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County.
The American flag hangs on a tree above two yellow ribbons, and the entry way of Yoder's parents' home in Rockland Township is draped in black bunting.
Family members have flown cross country; others drove hundreds of miles to remember Jarett's ultimate sacrifice.
"I just wish he wasn't gone. I love him," said Linda Teshima, Jarett's aunt, who flew in from California.
Tears rolled down Teshima's cheek Thursday, but beneath the tears and sadness the family is facing, there is pride.
"He died doing what he wanted to do," said Roger Allcroft, Jarett's uncle, who drove down from Rhode Island.
"He was a kid that attracted wonderful people because he just oozed fabulous," said Teshima.
Jarett comes from a military family. His grandfather was a Korean War veteran in the Air Force, and both his older sister and older brother are members of the Pennsylvania National Guard. His brother is also serving overseas, and is now on his way back to Berks County.
Jarett gave a wall hanging to his family before his first deployment. It's a simple gift that shows their tight bond.
"It just shows him with the rest of the immediate family," said Allcroft.
Jarett's helicopter went down Tuesday in the Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, not far from Pakistan. Both Jarett and Ruffner were on a reconnaissance mission. The crash remains under investigation.
The flag was flying at half staff at the Kutztown Armory on Thursday in memory of both soldiers. Jarett enlisted there in 2005, and was deployed three years later with the 56th Stryker Brigade. He is being remembered for his service and dream to be a pilot.
"Jarett was a valued member here. He was well-liked, well thought of, and we all wished him well and supported his dream to become a pilot," said SFC. Dennis Swartz, Pa. National Guard.
Jarett achieved his dream and married his sweetheart Heather last July. He was an athlete, an artist and his family said he took great pride in being a soldier.
"He loved his family, he loved his country," said Teshima.
"We're proud of him and everything he's done, he's a hero," said Allcroft.
Allentown, PA 18102