Bakersfield airman's body arrives home for funeral

LOS ANGELES (KBAK/KBFX) The body of TSgt. Mark Smith arrived Wednesday afternoon in California for a public viewing and funeral in his hometown of Bakersfield.

Smith was killed Aug. 5 when the HH 60G Pave Hawk helicopter in which he was flying went down during a training mission in Okinawa, Japan.

Wednesday, Fire trucks sprayed water in a somber salute - called the "arc of tears" - as Smith's plane made its way to the gate at Los Angeles International Airport, arriving from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Military members and law officers saluted Smith's flag-draped casket as it was off-loaded from the plane for a drive to Bakersfield.

During his 13 years of service in the Air Force, the 30-year-old Smith became a technical sergeant assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron. He advanced as a structural maintenance specialist before entering flight engineer upgrade training in 2008.

He was deployed twice to Afghanistan with the 33rd Rescue Squadron, where he participated in numerous missions to save lives of service members on the ground. During a daring rescue, Smith and his colleagues came under fire by rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine-guns. A combat photographer who was nearby in an overwatch position snapped a photo of the operation, and the image went viral in the rescue community.

Smith graduated from Bakersfield's Centennial High School in July 2000 and married his high school sweetheart Jessica, who graduated from Bakersfield High School. The pair had two daughters, Veronica and Gabriela.

A public viewing is 5-9 p.m. Friday, with a Rosary at 7 p.m. at Basham Funeral Care, 3312 Niles St. in Bakersfield. His funeral mass is at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, 601 E. California Ave.

Smith will be buried Sept. 5 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.