Visalians pay respect to Army Pfc. Keith WIlliams

Published 08/05 2014 08:53PM

Updated 08/05 2014 11:58PM

The family of a Visalia soldier killed in action is ready to move forward with his funeral services.

19-year army soldier, Keith Williams died during combat in Afghanistan two weeks ago.

Tuesday, his body was flown home to Visalia. 

The plane taxied at Visalia Municipal Airport and dozens of freedom riders moved in with American flags in hand.  Then came the moment everyone waited for, but wished they never had to see.  Loved ones spilled out tears as the casket carrying the body of Private First Class Army Soldier, Keith Williams was wheeled off the aircraft.

It’s one thing to actually hear it and another to see it with your own eyes,” said Vanessa Verbeek, a military widow.

Vanessa Verbeek has been down this road before her husband Jared was killed in action three years ago.  Since then, she’s come up with a way of justifying her loss.

“They were willing to do whatever it took to be behind the country in any shape or form.  This was their way and this is what they wanted to do,” said Verbeek.

A procession took the 19-year old’s body down Akers Street where people, who never even knew Williams, lined the sidewalks to show their appreciation.

“He’s a Visalia boy, a Tulare county boy, a California boy, he’s my boy,” said Lori Rhinebeck, a military supporter.

The route passed El Diamante High School where Williams graduated last year.  One of his former classmates looked on with a heavy heart and deep admiration.

“For him to give his life doing what he signed up for, that’s the ultimate sacrifice.  That’s the most honorable way someone can go,” said Marissa Leal, Williams’ classmate.

It was a touching sight no one in the city will soon forget including Rolando Corral who served 9 months in Iraq in 2003.

“For me, honestly today was to educate my kids that freedom is not free,” said Rolando Corral, a veteran.

A memorial ceremony for Williams is scheduled for 10 am Saturday at Visalia first Assembly of God church on South Akers Street. 

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