About 50 family members and friends received the body.
There was a motorcycle procession, from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to the Sandhills, where folks who knew Gates believed her future was as big and bright as her smile.
"I'm just sorry that this happened because she would have been a wonderful leader, not only for our community but for everybody's lives she touched," said her former teacher Elizabeth Dherde.
Gates died last Thursday in Texas. She was one of nine soldiers killed during a training exercise at Fort Hood.
The Army says heavy rains and swift floodwaters swept a tactical truck off the road.
Days before the tragedy, Gates was home in Dunn for Memorial Day weekend and visited her alma mater. She stopped by Triton High School to mentor cadets.
Gates was in ROTC and a member of its drill team.
She often came back to the school to help those around her.
Triton Principal Chip Mangum said more than being an excellent student, she was an inspiration to others.
"They were very appreciative of her help and she wanted to give back because that meant something to her," he said.
There will be a visitation Saturday at Colvin Funeral Home in Fayetteville from 6-8 p.m. and a church service Sunday at 2 p.m. at Kingdom Impact Global Ministries.
Gates will then be buried Monday with full military honors in Charleston.
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