Provo • Elk Ridge Army medic Cody Towse came home to Utah in a flag-draped silver casket on Wednesday, greeted by his tearful family, an Army ambulance and a full complement of military honors.
Towse, 21, died May 14 near Sanjaray, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated as he rushed to provide medical care to a wounded soldier. He was one of four soldiers on foot patrol who died in a series of four IED blasts that day, including two men assigned with Towse to the 3rd Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division from Fort Bliss, Texas.
For his bravery, Towse was posthumously promoted to the rank of specialist and awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Towse's remains were escorted home on a chartered plane by his father, Jim Towse.
"It was a long ride, but I had to do it," Jim Towse said at his home, where his son's casket lay in the front room. "I felt a connection."
Once on the ground at the Provo Municipal Airport, Jim Towse opened his arms to gather in the rest of his family wife Jamie and children Will, 20, Callan, 17 and Christian, 14 for an embrace. They clung together and wiped away tears as dozens of mourners looked on in silence.
Jamie Towse then went to one end of the casket and bent to rest her cheek against it.
Among those at the airport were extended family, friends, respectful strangers, military personnel and veterans. Some held U.S. flags, while others stood with their hands placed over their hearts or offered a solemn salute.
"You have to have so much empathy for these parents," said Provo resident Sandy Lamb, whose son and grandson both recently returned safely from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We're proud of our service people. We think of them every day. We pray for them every day. This is a way to say 'thank you'."
The airport ceremonies were silent except for the commands given to the team of six soldiers that carried the heavy casket across the tarmac to place it inside a white hearse. From Provo, a procession of police cars and fire engines headed south on Interstate 15 to the Towse family's Elk Ridge home.
The two-mile route from the airport to the highway was lined with more than 100 U.S. flags, which fluttered in the steady, cool spring breeze. The flags were placed there by an area Boy Scout troop, said Jim Christiansen, a cousin of Jamie Towse.
"Cody was a great guy," Christiansen said before the ceremonies as he pounded in a row of flag stakes along the route. "He was the kind of kid any parent would be proud to have as a son."
An American flag and an Army flag flew at half staff on the corner of the Towse family's yard on South Shayda Circle. At the base of the flag pole, Towse's boots and helmet sat with a stuffed Winnie the Pooh bear, flowers and a handwritten sign that read, "Thanks Cody."
Towse's casket will stay at his parents' home until Saturday, when funeral services are set for 9 a.m. at Salem Hills High School.