DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. -- As Staff Sergeant Joshua Bowden returned home Sunday, hundreds lined the procession's route to pay their last respects.
His funeral is taking place Monday afternoon in Douglasville's Central Baptist Church. He will soon later be buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Bowden was a bomb technician serving his second tour in Afghanistan when he was killed in battle on August 31. He was part of the 242nd Ordinance Battalion, 71st Ordinance Group, of Fort Carson, Colorado.
Enemy forces attacked Bowden's unit Saturday using small firearms, killing him while he was dismounted patrol.
Those watching Sunday's procession in Douglasville said they were drawn there by feelings of pain, sympathy and pride in their local hero.
"I've known him since I was in sixth grade. He was a tremendous athlete and soccer player, and I don't remember a time when he was ever in a bad mood," remembered Merritt Thomas.
Hundreds of Patriot Guard riders gathered several hours before Bowden's procession started. They said it was important to support the family when they arrived.
"We're Americans, this is what we do," Allen Watson said. "It's the right thing to do."
Thomas joined the Army at the same time as his friend, and was looking forward to visiting with him in a few months.
"I think it's important for people to know that he loved what he was doing," Thomas said. "He died doing what he loved the most, protecting his brothers and sisters."
Bowden leaves behind a wife and five-year-old son.
The soldier graduated from Alexander High School in Douglas County in 2003.
Two years later, he joined the Army where he would carry away a Purple Heart Award, a Defense Meritorious Service Medal, a Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor Device, a NATO Medal, a Combat Action Badge, a Parachute Badge, an Air Assault Madge and an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Badge.