DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. (11Alive)-- As Staff Sergeant Joshua Bowden returned home Sunday, hundreds lined the procession's route to pay their last respects. Bowden was a bomb technician serving his second tour in Afghanistan when he was killed in battle on August 31st. His funeral will be held in Georgia before he is buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Those watching the 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.