The sobs surrounding Spc. Ember Alt grew louder and more uncontrollable as family and friends bowed their heads to pray for the fallen soldier. The solemn sounds of taps and a 21-gun salute and echoed through the air. One by one, loved ones touched her silver, flag-draped casket for the last time.
Before gathering Saturday at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, residents honored Alt, 21, during a service at a Killeen funeral home, where they saw her sweet face one last time in the open casket.
“It was just really odd, like my friend is gone and I have to see her just laying there. I was nervous,” said Riian Depoy, 20.
“She looked really peaceful. ... Even in her time of life, Ember was just really beautiful, like naturally beautiful.”
Alt was killed June 18 by indirect enemy fire at Bagram Airfield during her first tour in Afghanistan. She was one of four soldiers killed in the attack and one of three assigned to the 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo.
Her father, Charles Alt Jr., was working in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor. He escorted the body of his oldest daughter out of Afghanistan to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and then to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware June 22 before arriving in Killeen on Friday for the services.
Friends said they were fortunate to know Alt and make memories with the loving and artistic soul.
“It’s rare to find caliber’s like hers; to be so kind to everybody and so sweet and in a way it makes you think people like that are invincible to things like this,” Depoy said. “She was so young, and if anything, she deserved to fulfill everything. It was just too soon.”
Depoy said the two often shared poetry and art with one another, with Alt always encouraging her.
“She was talking about poetry (the last time we talked before she deployed). She would send me her poetry all the time,” Depoy said. “The last few things she said to me pertained to my art and she told me not to give it up.”
Alt was a 2009 graduate of Killeen High School, where she ran track and helped the Lady Roos’ 1,600-meter relay team reach the state meet.
“I didn’t believe (she died) until today when I saw the open casket. It’s just unreal. You wouldn’t expect such a nice person to be gone so soon and at a young age,” said Almber Smalley, 2012 graduate and a former teammate. “It hurt just to know we won’t be able to share any more memories and to know the pain that her family has to go through because she’s no longer here.”