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Originally published Friday, May 3, 2013 at 10:26 PM

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Yakima bids farewell to a fallen hero

A procession of Patriot Guard riders escorted the body of an Army helicopter pilot from the Yakima Airport Friday as Capt. Aaron Blanchard made his final trip home.

Yakima Herald-Republic

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YAKIMA — The body of Capt. Aaron Blanchard, an Army helicopter pilot who was killed in Afghanistan last week, has been returned to Yakima.

A procession of Patriot Guard riders and others was organized to escort his body Friday afternoon from the Yakima Air Terminal to a funeral home in Yakima.

Gov. Jay Inslee also announced that state flags will be at half-staff Saturday in Blanchard’s memory. His memorial service will be Saturday at Stone Church in Yakima

Family members on Wednesday recalled Blanchard, 32, as their hero and a hardworking, loving husband and father.

Blanchard formerly of Selah, was killed when an enemy missile struck his base in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, while making arrangements at a local funeral home, Blanchard’s father, Don Blanchard, and brother, Karl Blanchard, recalled how he wrestled for Selah High School, loved to hunt elk with a bow, and always aspired to become a pilot.

Don said he took his son hunting not long after he began to walk. “He got hooked,” he said.

Karl said his brother never missed a hunting season except for one year when he was training to be a pilot.

“When he’d go all over the country, he’d always return come September so we could do our thing — go elk hunting,” Karl said. He recalled one season when Blanchard showed up after moving his family to New York, where he was stationed.

“On that trip, he got his elk on the last day,” his brother recalled. “2011 was so memorable for me because it seemed like it was so hard to get it going but then we did.”

Don Blanchard said his son wanted to be a pilot since age 5, when he once used a long board as a makeshift aircraft wing and pretended to fly.

“How may times on Halloween did he dress up like a pilot?” Karl asked.

“Quite a few times,” Don said.

His widow, Becky, called him “awesome.”

“We really didn’t try to change each other,” she said. “We just tried to change for each other. He was so much fun.”

She met her husband 10 years ago at Camp Pendleton, where they were both stationed while serving in the Marines. She said there’s no way to quantify how much she will miss him.

“He held my hand in the car ... I need people to know how amazing he was.”

Don held up his cellphone with a picture of Aaron Blanchard and Becky holding their two children, Hunter, 4, and 2-year-old Amalia. “And that’s what meant the most to him,” he said.

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