PICKENS — Those who knew Pfc. Barrett L. Austin well spoke of his love for family and friends, and Monday those same family members and friends, along with many in the community, poured out their love for him, lining the streets and giving him a hero’s welcome home.
Austin, 20, of Easley, died April 21 in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries suffered when his vehicle was hit April 17 by an enemy improvised explosive device in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Austin’s body returned Monday to the Upstate, and a military guard solemnly loaded his remains in a hearse at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in front of family and scores of supporters for the journey to Dillard Funerals and Cremations in Pickens.
Residents gathered along the route as Patriot Guard Riders and Pickens County sheriff’s deputies escorted his body. Fire trucks parked on overpasses along Interstate 85 in a display of sorrow and support. At least 100 people were at the funeral home to show their support.
Some who were close to the soldier from Dacusville have described him as humble, family-focused, full of life and heroic.
Austin was a 2011 graduate of Pickens High School and a member of Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley.
Christie Dunson, an English teacher at Pickens High who taught Austin, said he told her that he “missed his family, missed his wife” and “always put his friends and family first.”
“Sometimes with a high school student at that age, they tend to put their families on the back burner in pursuit of things they want for themselves,” she said. “But that was not Barrett. He loved his family and had a definite focus on what really mattered and that (was) putting your family first.”
Yellow ribbons have dotted homes and mailboxes throughout Pickens County to show support for Austin and his family, and messages of thanks and condolences have filled the page of a Facebook group, Bows for Barrett.
Austin was described as “a wonderful young man” who was “so full of life and very proud to have the honor of serving his country” in a statement from staffers at the Sunburst Salon and Spa in Easley, which Barrett’s mother owns. It “has been very hard on the community, but the community has shown such amazing support and love,” the statement said.
The Department of Defense said Austin was assigned to the 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
He is survived by his parents, Curt and Yolanda Buck Austin; wife, Heather Hooker Austin of Fort Stewart, Ga.; two sisters, Summer Harris and Jordan Austin, both of Easley; a nephew, grandparents, aunts and uncles, according to his obituary.
A service to celebrate Austin’s life will start at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Rock Springs Baptist Church with burial to follow in Hillcrest Memorial Park in Pickens with full military honors. The family will receive friends from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley.