MONTICELLO, Utah — The body of a Utah National Guardsman who was killed in Afghanistan last week has returned home.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler, 27, of Monticello, was killed August 16 in an attack while serving his first deployment overseas in Afghanistan.
Butler's body arrived on a private plane shortly before noon Thursday at the Monticello Airport. Family said his remains were brought home on what would have been Butler's 28th birthday.
"It's been a perfect time to celebrate him coming home," said Andy Butler, one of the staff sergeant's older brothers.
An honor guard carried the flag-covered casket, with flags and Patriot Guard Riders lining the way. As Butler's family, including his parents and fiancee Alexandria Seagrove, approached the casket, Seagrove broke down.
Butler's brothers quickly surrounded her with support, and the family stood in an embrace.
"The best thing that we can say about moments like that, is that they are sacred," said Adam Butler, another older brother.
A procession then took off from the Monticello Airport to the mortuary in Blanding.
Hundreds of people in Monticello lined Main Street, holding flags and signs, and saluting or placing their hands over their hearts.
"As we came into town, it was phenomenal," Andy Butler said.
He said words can't describe the gratitude they've seen toward their brother, and the dignity and respect paid by the military and Patriot Guard Riders.
Andy Butler said the family felt a great sense of peace, and they believe Aaron has something to do with that.
"We really do believe and feel that he's at peace. He came and did what he wanted to do," Andy Butler said, adding, "He's proud, and we're proud."
Butler was assigned to the Utah National Guard 19th Special Forces group.
Eleven other soldiers were injured in the attack, which happened in Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province "when [Butler] entered a booby-trapped building that exploded while his group was fighting members of the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan," according to a statement from a family friend.
On Thursday, Governor Gary Herbert issued an order for U.S. and Utah State flags at all state facilities and public grounds to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on August 26, the day Butler will be laid to rest.
"Jeanette and I were heartbroken to hear of the passing of one of Utah’s best, Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler. Tonight, we join all Utahns in grieving for him, and honoring his sacrifice — the ultimate sacrifice. Our hearts ache for his family, friends and loved ones, and they will long be on our minds and in our prayers," Gov. Herbert said in a statement.
Funeral services will be held Saturday at the LDS Stake Center in Monticello, followed by interment at the Monticello City Cemetery.