The body of SSGT James Ellis was flown back to the United States and arrived Wednesday night at Tallahassee Regional Airport, the same airport where just a few months ago he returned to visit his family for a short break.
His wife, Ulrica Ellis, recalled the first time she met her husband on a blind date.
She said, "Some people don't believe in love at first sight, but we did."
The couple married in 2004, never parting until James was deployed with the Army last December. His mission was Baghdad. She would often wait for his phone calls, and each time they talked about his next return.
"He looked forward to coming home. It's all we talked about was him coming home."
Ulrica says James was to return home in November, but on October 2 an improvised explosive device killed the 25-year-old, tearing away a husband and best friend from Ulrica, and father from their daughter, 14-month-old Ja'Niayah.
Ulrica's eyes filled with tears, looking after the toddler as she played with her cousin.
"I don't think she knows what's going on or if she even has an idea, and that's the hard part I'm going to have to face."
A flag draped coffin was the reality for Ulrica that the phone calls from James she once waited for would not come anymore.
She said, "Those were his last words, I'm going to call soon, I'm going to pack my bags. And not even two days after that they showed up at my door and I knew. I knew he wasn't going to call again."
She called James her best friend, wiping more tears from her eyes, and then she called him her hero not just to her, but to their young daughter who will grow up remembering her father as a hero and to a country he gave his life for.
SSGT James Ellis was stationed out of Fort Hood in Texas. However, once he was deployed, Ulrica and then three-month-old Ja'Niayah moved to Valdosta to be close to family.
Funeral services are planned for Sunday in Valdosta.