Fallen U.S. Forest Service firefighter Brent Michael Witham made his final journey home to San Bernardino County on Monday from Montana, where he was killed last week in the line of duty.
The solemn rites of firefighter mourning were on display the whole way, and will continue this week as an honor guard keeps watch over Witham’s body until his interment Thursday following a public memorial service at the National Orange Show Event Center in San Bernardino.
An orange-and-white Forest Service airplane, normally used to transport firefighters who parachute into remote areas, touched down at San Bernardino International Airport at 3:36 p.m., carrying Witham’s casket that was covered by an American flag.
The plane taxied to a tarmac where Witham’s colleagues, the Idyllwild-based Vista Grande Hotshots, waited for the 29-year-old Mentone resident as they stood at attention and held their caps over their hearts.
Witham also was greeted by mourners who had never met him. Among them, 7-year-old Xanti Marquez and her mother, Carmen Marquez of Temecula, held American flags where spectators had gathered at the air tanker base on the airport grounds.
Carmen Marquez wore a Forest Service Smokejumpers shirt and Xanti wore a tank top that said Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service. Marquez’s brother was a smokejumper and a hotshot.
Marquez said she wanted to represent those who couldn’t make it to the solemn ceremony.
“We felt compelled to come out to honor and…
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