VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) --Hundreds of people paid their final respects to a South Valley soldier who died in the line of duty.
Army Pfc. Keith Williams was laid to rest in Visalia on Saturday. He was killed when the vehicle he was in ran over an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan last month.
Williams graduated from El Diamante High School last year. His father told Action News the 19-year-old knew he wanted to serve his country from a very young age.
Patriot Guard Riders surrounded the mourning family of Williams as they walked into his memorial service. Frankie Williams is the young soldier's father. He says he is honored to have raised an American hero. "Very proud. I am a 21-year Navy veteran, and him and I had long talks about going in the military and some of the pitfalls and dangers that were there, and he knew it. But he still opted to serve."
The Visalia teen's mother was presented a flag during a military ceremony.
The soldier was proud of his Native American ancestry and a portion of the service paid tribute to that heritage.
Family and friends say Williams loved the San Francisco Giants, his sister's apple pies, and going to concerts with the same friends who now carried his casket.
"It's a terrible loss, but I know he left doing something he wanted to do," said Martin Sustaita, Williams' best friend.
Williams enlisted in the Army soon after graduating high school. Members of his platoon say even in dangerous combat zones he always put others first. "They said Keith was a natural soldier, tough, athletic, incredibly smart, more concerned about his team than himself. He emulated our Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage."
Williams is the first El Diamante High School graduate to die in action. Now there's a plaque on the wall on campus so no one will forget he paid the ultimate sacrifice.
"Keith Williams, a wonderful young man, full of love, full of life, loved his family, friends, his country and his school," said El Diamante Principal Mike Waters.
The family is planning to send care packages to troops deployed in Afghanistan. They have also set up a scholarship fund in Williams' name which will go toward helping a young student with their education.
Keith M. Williams Scholarship Fund
Educational Employees Credit Union (EECU)
3612 S. Mooney Blvd.
Visalia, CA 93277