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Senior Airman Benjamin D. White brought home

The body of Senior Airman Benjamin D. White, an Erwin native killed on a rescue mission in Afghanistan, was flown to the Tri-Cities Regional Airport aboard a military plane from Dover Air Force Base this morning, and he received a hero’s welcome home to Erwin.
For miles between the airport and Unicoi County, hundreds lined roads and highways, with flags in hand, to pay honor to the fallen soldier.
He was killed in Afghanistan, along with three other servicemen, June 9, when insurgents attacked his helicopter.
A procession led by law-enforcement and military officials throughout the region and state led the way for White’s return to Erwin. In Unicoi County, hundreds lined the Jackson-Love Highway, Love Street and Main Avenue as law-enforcement officers, in dozens of cars, brought Senior Airman White to Erwin Memorial Funeral Home on North Main Avenue. Dozens of motorcycle riders followed the hearse, with flags waving.
Citizens brought flags and homemade signs calling White “Erwin’s hero.”
He’s the first servicemen from Unicoi County to die in a combat situation since Vietnam.
Denise Rambo and daughter Kailen, 10, of Johnson City called White a “hero” and said she’s cried so many times since hearing the news of his death, despite not knowing White personally.
“He’s a hero,” Rambo said. “We want to thank him for giving his life for our freedom. It’s a huge honor that people line the streets, and I think it shows what kind of people we are here in East Tennessee.
“He was only 24 years old and he was willing to give his life. … I noticed all the different ways people pay their respects, you have people fist pumping, thumbs up. You have people blowing their horns, flashing their lights. You have people holding up signs.
“I hope he’s looking down from heaven and thinking to himself, ‘All this is for me?’ ”