- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) - The body of a central Florida soldier who died in Afghanistan was returned home for burial as well-wishers lined the streets paying tribute to the soldier.

The U.S. Department of Defense reported that Ruiz died May 24 in Bagram, Afghanistan, in a noncombat-related incident.

Melbourne City Councilwoman Deborah Thomas estimated around 1,000 people paid tribute to Army Sgt. 1st Class Pablo “Ponch” A. Ruiz.

“I’d just gotten through watching MSNBC, and they were talking about how tired Americans are of the war, and tired of this and tired of that, we’ll never be that tired,” Paul Walker of Palm Bay said. “I felt it was important to come out here and show support in whatever little way that I could.”

Florida Today (https://bitly.com/1M5pfHb) reports that members of the Melbourne Police Department, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, the American Legion and the Avet Project escorted the body from Melbourne International Airport to Fountainhead Memorial Park in Palm Bay, and then to Gleason Auditorium on the campus of Florida Tech. That’s where a public viewing was planned from noon to 2 p.m., followed by a full military service.

There will be a life celebration for Ruiz at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the NCO Pavilion across from Patrick Air Force Base.

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Information from: Florida Today (Melbourne, Fla.), https://www.floridatoday.com

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