The body of a young Spokane soldier killed in Afghanistan has returned home.
Army Sergeant Matthew Stiltz, 26, died Nov. 12 when insurgents attacked his unit with artillery fire. On Monday, his flag-draped casket was presented to his family at Spokane International Airport.
Flags will fly at half staff Tuesday to honor Sergeant Stiltz.
His parents, Mark and Terri, say Matthew wanted to be a soldier for as long as they can remember. He lived to serve this country and died serving this country as he would have wanted it.
"The numbness is beginning to wear off and seeing his casket today made it more real," Terri Stiltz said.
"If you have to have, lost a child, you want to lose them that they want to be lost and this is a very honorable way to go, I, just ... very proud of him," Mark Stiltz said.
At five years old he was already a soldier, dressing the part with his older brother, his ally.
"They would go out and take the BB guns, I remember painting the house and finding all these little bb holes in the siding of the house," Mark said, laughing. "I knew they'd be out playing soldier."
At his mom and dad's home, a dinner table is filled with happy memories to keep the tears away for now. Above all, it's pride they feel for Matthew.
"This was his life it's what he wanted to do he was proud of what he was doing," Terri said.
In following his dreams to serve our country he met his love, his wife of three years, Brooke, along the way.
"I just feel really blessed to have experienced a love as strong and true as ours was," Brooke Stiltz said.
Three years together hardly seems fair for his wife, though neither does the 26 years his mother and father had with their son. But what mom has left might keep her going for a lifetime. A voice message from Afghanistan:
"Hey mom ... I was just calling to tell you I got your packages, I really appreciate it, it really helped and ... tell you all I love you and I always think about you guys and the care package really helps out so ... I love you all. Bye."
The family says Matthew would have wanted the public he served to come to his memorial, so everyone is welcome to come.
His gravesite ceremony is at Greenwood Cemetery this Saturday, Nov. 24, at 1 p.m. A memorial service will follow at the Shiloh Hills Fellowship Church in North Spokane.