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Fallen Soldier Returns Home

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Ryan Winkelmann, 24, passed away suddenly earlier this month from a medical condition.

He was serving in the Honor Guard in Arlington, Virginia.

He'll get a full military reception at the Huntsville airport Tuesday evening.

When you see your son off to war, you have no choice.  You worry every time you look out the window.

Ryan's Mother, DeLourdes Booker says, "Any mother or father or any relative has the fear of having the military show up in a car, and them get out and hand them the letter that they've lost a loved one."

Ryan Winkelmann's mother found her worst nightmare waiting for her last Sunday just outside her Madison home.

Unfamiliar tires. Boots on the front step.  The letter.  Her son.

"I just think maybe God needed a warrior in heaven at this time," says Booker.

Winkelmann was just 24, but he'd already seen two tours in Iraq.  He fathered a daughter.  She's four.  His wife is pregnant, due this summer.  His dedication became his signature.

His mother describes, "He lived by the code of God and family and friends and country, and he just was honored to serve."

And he served dutifully, earning many decorations.

But Winkelmann's life meant more than his medals and ribbons can describe.

Booker remembers, "He just accepted people the way that they were and expected them to accept him the way he was.  He was very honorable, very caring, and extremely loyal."

For the life he lived boldly, he'll be remembered fondly.

We will not be attending tonight's return, so we can honor and respect the family's privacy.

The family also asks that all donations be made to the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

They say it's what Ryan would have wanted.