Hundreds line Hickam streets for fallen airman's final homecoming
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (HawaiiNewsNow) - Air Force Capt. Reid Nishizuka was a Kailua boy who died doing what he loved. And hundreds of his military family turned out to honor him for his service.
Nishizuka, 30, was the pilot of an Air Force MC-12 Liberty aircraft that crashed April 27 near Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan, killing him and three other airmen.
A C-17 carrying his casket arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam just as the sun was setting. Military officials had put out the word for service men and women to be present for his return. And by the dozens, and then the hundreds, they came, along with their families. They waited quietly outside the same part of the air field where presidents arrive.
They came because he is one of them.
"He paid the ultimate sacrifice, and I wanted to honor him and show his family that all of us - we all care," said Tech Sgt. Aubrey Pabon. "It's like losing a brother, really."
"Just because we live in Hawaii, in a place of paradise, there's still folks out there doing the job, and there's always those dangers," said Tech Sgt. Reginald Sims.
"It's always hard, because it hits close to home," said Sims' wife, Traycie.
About two dozen of Nishizuka's family members were present as his remains returned home. They were allowed to board the aircraft and spend time with the casket for several minutes, out of view of the hundreds who waited quietly outside.
"For us in the military, wherever you go, where there's a uniform, there's a family," said Theresa Johnson, who's married to an army soldier. "I think they need to realize that we all grieve with them, we all support them, and we all honor him."
Finally, six of Nishizuka's fellow airmen carried his gray metal casket down the ramp of the C-17 to a waiting white hearse. The street from the air field was closed as military police escorted the hearse off base. The service members lining the street raised their arms in a slow salute as the hearse passed.
"His life was not in vain and he's honored by everybody, and we appreciate his service," said Johnson.
Funeral services for Nishizuka will be held Saturday at 6 p.m. at Central Union Church. Burial is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m. at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.
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