CHAMBLEE, Ga - Activity at Dekalb-Peachtree Airport paused Thursday morning as family and friends gathered around the casket of a devoted father and soldier.
The body of Staff Sgt. Alex Povilaitis arrived on a tarmac surrounded by members of the Patriot Guard and a military honor unit.
The 47-year-old lost his life on May 31 to an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan.
"He always loved his country," said childhood friend Greg Haskell. "He felt like he had to give something back, and that's what he did."
As the casket was lowered from the plane, members of the soldier's family gathered around. Alex Povilaitis' two sons, Blaine and Danny, knelt and prayed. Others stood arm in arm.
Povilaitis first joined the Army in 1984. He retired from the military and worked in the private sector only to return to the Army in 2009 at the age of 44. He served two tours in Iraq before his fateful trip to Afghanistan.
"He was the first one to get up and go if something needed to be done," said childhood friend Tim Ballew. "He was always there on the front willing to help and do his part."
John Maiolo, who went to school with Povilaitis from kindergarten all the way through high school, placed his hand on his friend's casket and prayed.
"Prayed for God to accept him into his kingdom," said Maiolo. "Accept him as we've all accepted him."
Funeral services will be held Saturday at noon at Patterson's Oglethorpe Hill Funeral Home on Peachtree Road.
Povilaitis will be buried at Georgia National Cemetery in Cherokee County.