A homecoming for Jacob 'Spanky' Harrelson, but there are no smiles, no cheering, nothing but a solemn remembrance from a grateful Alex City.
"Two words describe Harrelson; hometown hero. He didn't have to join the Army. He volunteered," said Clyde Coker with misty eyes.
'Spanky' Harrelson had just turned 19 when he died in Iraq. He was driving a humvee when a land mine exploded. Carla Talton taught Harrelson in high school.
"It's so sad to lose one of your own. I wanted to be here to support the family," said Talton.
Childhood friend Jordan Davis just felt the need to be at the Alex City airport along with a hundred others.
"He was one of my best friends. This is a nightmare," said Davis.
For many who withstood the heat at the Alex City airport, the most difficult moment came when Harrelson's coffin emerged for the first time from the jet. Harrelson's mother broke down several times. It was the reality of a young soldier's death settling in.
Will Williams says the U.S. Marine Corps let him come home from his base in California to attend his friend's funeral. In fact, it was 'Spanky' Harrelson who talked Williams into joining the military.
"This really brings it home. You don't really think it can happen to you but it can," said Williams.
The locals say this is the first time the military has flown in a war dead to the Alex City airport. They're counting on it being the last. With a salute from his step-father, family and friends get ready to say goodbye to Army infantryman Jacob 'Spanky' Harrelson on Friday.
Harrelson's funeral begins at 4 o clock Friday afternoon at the Dadeville Baptist Church.