Porterville solider killed in Afghanistan returns home

FRESNO, Calif.

24-year-old Specialist Brett Land died when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

As the plane carrying Brett Land's body flew into the Porterville airport ... his mother, Gretchen, cried as she rocked the 24-year-old's newborn daughter. A daughter he will never get to meet.

Family, friends and members of the community came to the Porterville airport to support Land's family. The homecoming was emotional even for those who never knew him.

Mike Rooke says with veteran's day just two days away ... Land's death is especially sad. "We just can't forget these guys ... what they did for our country."

As the Porterville native's body was removed from the plane, Lands family surrounded the casket on the runway and cried.

Brett Land was killed in Afghanistan on October 30th. He grew up in Porterville before eventually moving to Bakersfield where he graduated high school.

For the entire week flags will be flown at half staff at Burton Middle School where Brett was a star student, the principal was also a very close family friend of Brett's.

Michelle Pengilly said, "Christmas and wrestling we went to a lot of his wrestling matches and he used to run in races with my husband before we had kids he was like our pretend kid."

Land was the ring bearer at Michelle Pengilly's wedding. Burton Middle School recently chose him as it's adopted solider. A care package with letters from the students was on its way to Afghanistan when he died.

"I just think Brett was a remarkable person he had a lot of talents many of them we got to see," said Pengilly. "I think he left a lot of great memories with many of us and I know that he'll be truly missed."

On Tuesday, Burton students painted posters to prepare for Land's funeral procession. All 650 students will be watching as it passes by the school on Wednesday.

A memorial service for U.S. Army Spec. Brett Land of Wasco is scheduled for noon Wednesday at Porterville Church of the Nazarene, 2005 W. Olive Ave., Porterville. Graveside service will follow at Hillcrest Memorial Park, 1013 E. Olive Ave., Porterville. For more information, please call: 784-1569.

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