WEST FORT HOOD — As the silver, flag-draped casket carrying the body of Spc. Ember Alt rolled out of the twin-jet plane onto a lift, pained cries from her family echoed across a still and otherwise silent runway at Robert Gray Army Airfield.
After hearing the unbelievable truth more than a week ago, they saw the reality Friday.
Alt, 21, was killed June 18 by indirect enemy fire at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, 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.
Services for Ember Marie Alt will be at 9 a.m. today at Crawford-Bowers Funeral Home in Killeen. Burial with full military honors will follow at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.
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.
She joined the Army in 2011 while living along the South Carolina-Georgia border and was serving her first tour in Afghanistan at the time of her death.
“She wanted to go,” her stepmother, Jennifer Owens, told the Herald earlier this week. “She wanted to fight for her country. But, I was scared for her. We all were. We were scared for her. But, she was happy — kind of excited and scared at the same time. But, she was excited about doing it.”
Alt’s 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 last Saturday.
The plane landed shortly before 12:30 p.m. Friday — what would’ve been Alt’s 22nd birthday. The white jet taxied beneath a water arch salute and came to a stop facing Alt’s family.
Alt, who had a great many hobbies growing up, a passion for music and the drive to become a soldier so she could go to school, returned home in the most heartbreaking way.
“Ember wanted to do a lot of things,” said Alt’s godmother, Corey Daughtry. “She had a lot of ideas and a lot of things she wanted to do. She never let go of her music, though. She was always writing lyrics and poems, and I think that would’ve worked out for her.”
The color guard carried Alt’s casket in front of the family before loading it into a white hearse. The processional was first led by Fort Hood police cars to the gate on Clarke Road; then roughly 30 Patriot Guard riders escorted the group to the funeral home.