STUART, Fla. - Hundreds gathered to watch an airplane land with the body of Sgt. Justin Johnson, a 25-year-old Hobe Sound US Army soldier killed in Afghanistan on June 18th.
"He died protecting us," said Emily Musella, a Stuart resident who came with her husband to watch Sgt. Johnson's remains return by plane to the Stuart JetCenter in Witham Field.
"We need to support him and his sacrifice," she added. "This is heartbreaking."
Musella was one of dozens who waved American flags, and stood by as Sgt. Johnson's family watched the plane land. A flag was raised to half-staff at the JetCenter entrance.
Sgt. Johnson's family cried with grief as his flag-draped casket was lowered from the plane.
They gathered around his hearse as a group, as his mother, Sonia Randolph, continued to cry.
Betsy Poux of Stuart was there as Sgt. Johnson's body landed. Her sister went to school with Randolph, but couldn't come to the ceremony. So Poux said she came to show her solidarity with Johnson's family.
"My heart just breaks that a little boy lost his father to protect us and keep us safe," Poux said. "He died for us."
Sgt. Johnson was Randolph's only child. He leaves behind a four-year-old son, Justin Johnson, Jr.