Specialist Darrion Hicks died July 19 after being wounded in an IED blast in Ghazni.
The private jet that carried the 21-year-old's body to RDU was greeted by a water cannon salute Monday morning as his family watched. When inside the hangar, Hicks' flag-draped coffin was removed from the plane as men and women in uniform salute him.
"He made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan when his unit came under attack by an IED," said Bill Amerson with Patriot Guard of North Carolina. "Our heart goes out to the family. This is one of the worst days, worst weeks of their lives. They've lost their son, their hopes, their dreams for the future, and they're not going to get that back."
North Carolina's Patriot Guard, who are military veterans, escorted Hicks' body to Haywood Funeral Home in Raleigh following the sad homecoming.
Hicks, a 2009 graduate of Broughton High School, joined the United States Army after graduation and was assigned to the 54th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command.
Broughton High School ROTC instructor, Master Sgt. Richard Suggs, said joining the military was a high priority for the Raleigh native.
"He knew he wanted to go into the military and that was his goal, to be in the military, because he was very patriotic and he wanted to serve his country," Suggs said.
He said he last saw Hicks was earlier this year, before he deployed to Germany. It was his first deployment, and Suggs said Hicks was excited.
"I just seen him, he was doing so well, and I just, didn't expect that to happen to him," Suggs said. "He told us he was going and one of the things I told him was to be safe and try to stay out of trouble, keep low."
On Wednesday, the Patriot Guard will escort Hicks' body to the Raleigh National Cemetery following a service at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.