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Florida soldier killed in Afghanistan returns to somber Homestead

A fallen Florida soldier came home in a flag-draped coffin Tuesday to a somber hero’s welcome at Homestead Air Reserve Base from 200 U.S. forces and weeping family members.

Army Spc. Gerardo Campos, 23, of Homestead was killed in Afghanistan on June 2.

An infantryman, he was on his first overseas deployment from his U.S. Army base in Washington state and left behind a wife and 9-month-old daughter. The soldier had just deployed to Afghanistan in April, according to the military, meaning he had been serving abroad for just weeks.

Tuesday, the military brought his remains home from the military morgue at Dover AFB, Del., to a Florida National Guard honor guard, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines lining the air base landing strip. Also on hand were members of the commando unit based here, Special Operations Command-South, and federal workers from the division of Border Protection and Customs.

It was pin-drop silent as troops offloaded Campo’s coffin from a contract jet — except for a few wails from family members as the honor guard carried the coffin past to an awaiting hearse.

Campos’ kin turned out in yellow T-shirts symbolic of the traditional homecoming ribbon.

A viewing was scheduled for 6 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday at Palms Woodlawn Funeral Home and Cemetery, 27100 Old Dixie Highway, Naranja, followed by mass at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church, 14881 Southwest 288th Street, Homestead, with burial afterward back at Palms Woodlawn.

Tuesday’s was the first return of a fallen Florida son to Homestead, a base with some 700 Pentagon workers, for ceremonial honors since the summer of 2010, said base spokesman Timothy Norton.

In Tallahassee, Gov. Rick Scott ordered state and U.S. flags be flown at half-staff on Wednesday at the Capitol, the Homestead City Hall and Miami-Dade County Courthouse in honor of Campos.

The Pentagon said Campos was killed “when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire” in Maiwand, Afghanistan. No other details were immediately available. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

Campos was born in Perrine and grew up in Homestead, with four siblings.

He was survived by his wife, Rubi Ramos and daughter Isabella Campos, 9 months; parents Maria Lopez and Joel Campos; sisters Decenia Tello and Erica Campos and brothers Joel M. Campos Jr. and Eduardo Campos. All live in Homestead.

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