Remains of Porterville soldier return home


Crowds gathered to pay their respects to 21-year-old Pfc. A.J. Pardo, who died in the line of duty on July 8. The Porterville native and five others were killed when a roadside bomb hit their armored vehicle in eastern Afghanistan.

A plane carrying the remains of Pfc. Pardo touched down at Porterville airport Sunday afternoon.

Family and friends say he was a loving person and was a man of faith who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Silence filled the tarmac while military honor guards waited for the coffin carrying the remains. Pardo was loved and as his coffin was carried off the plane he was surrounded by people from his hometown who loved him the most.

Kate Pardo met her son's body on the tarmac draped by the American flag. She shared some words about his sacrifice through a family spokesperson.

"When A.J. decided to join the Army, still in high school, I had to come to terms with his decision and acknowledge we cannot ask others to send their sons and daughters into service if I am unwilling to send my own," family spokesman Laura Herzog said.

Pardo hoped to someday become a chef and move to Chicago the home of his favorite team, the Cubs.

Louis Allen says he and other patriot guards carried flags on Sunday to honor the fallen soldier.

"We are just here to see these families get the respect and the young people who have given everything get the respect and love that they deserve," Allen said.

Pardo graduated in 2009 from Granite Hills High School. Rolinda Baranek works at the school and is proud so many people from the community showed up to pay their respects.

"I feel just glad to be an American. I'm happy people took time out of their life to pay honor to him giving the ultimate sacrifice. This is what we need to do. He is young, he fought for our freedom, he gave it all. Makes me very proud," Rolinda Baranek of Porterville said.

Private Pardo's mother says the loss of her son is tragic but reminded us that when A.J. talked about his service he would often say "if not me, who?"

A funeral service will be held on Tuesday at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Porterville. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mass: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - Holy Cross Catholic Church (1765 N. Newcomb, Porterville)

Hillcrest Cemetery - 1013 E. Olive Avenue, Porterville (graveside service)

The public is welcome to attend.

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