MOORESVILLE, NC (WNCN/AP) - The body of a Marine from Pinehurst who was killed in a training accident in California has returned to North Carolina.
A plane carrying the body of Capt. Samuel Phillips landed at RDU Friday. His family, other Marines, local police and firefighters met the flight on the tarmac -- to welcome Phillips home one final time
While Phillips' casket was taken off the plane, draped in a American flag, travelers stopped to watch from airport windows. A man on board the flight said passengers were completely silent, moved by the sight.
"There are times in the past when veterans have not gotten the recognition that they should have. We do this to honor the people who've served, whether they've been active duty one day or their entire life," said Richard Jewell, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Patriot Guard.
The group volunteers their time to show support for families of the fallen at funerals and memorials.
They met Phillips' family, and the hearse carrying his body at the airport to escort them, along with Highway Patrol, from RDU to Pinehurst.
"They're veterans and they are our brothers. They deserve a homecoming," said Patriot Guard organizer Charles Bullock.
Phillips was one of four Marines killed when their helicopter crashed on a training mission in the Southern California desert.
Gunnery Sgt. Richard Holley, Capt. Samuel Schultz and Lance Cpl. Taylor Conrad were also killed in the crash.
They were practicing desert landings when their CH-53E Super Stallion crashed April 3 in a remote area just outside El Centro, near the U.S.-Mexico border.
The 27-year-old Phillips grew up in Pinehurst before his family moved to California.
Phillips attended the University of Idaho on a full Marine scholarship and participated in ROTC.
In 2013, Phillips joined the Marine Corps, first attending Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia.
From there he was stationed at NAS Corpus Christi for flight training and then NAS Pensacola for helicopter school.
His family says as a child, Phillips dreamed on joining the military.
Phillips, his family says, was athletic, funny and driver. When he made up his mind to do something, he would do it, and do it well. his mom said.
The family says Phillips funeral will be held Saturday afternoon at Community Presbyterian Church in Pinehurst, with a celebration to follow in the Village Green.