Hundreds of US-led coalition troops Saturday lined the dusty road through Bagram Air Base to pay their last respects to two fallen comrades killed in a firefight in southeast Afghanistan.
Around 500 US, Italian, Slovak, Romanian, Norwegian and South Korean troops and air force personnel lined "Disney Drive" along which two humvees bore the coffins behind the Stars and Stripes, US Air Force and CTF 82 flags to the open hold of a waiting C-130 Hercules aircraft.
Two US soldiers killed in
Afghanistan are paid their last
"Anybody that can possibly stop their operations will generally come out of their place of work. It's simply a sign of respect," said US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Lefforge of the hundreds lining the road, as the US flag flew at half-mast over the air strip control tower.
Coalition task force commander Lieutenant General Dan McNeill and Major General John Vines joined the massed troops and air force personnel.
Around 100 helmeted troops forming a guard of honour saluted as the flag-wrapped coffins were taken from the humvees and each slowly carried by six pallbearers into the plane's cargo hold.
"From the moment they were wounded they were never left alone," said Task Force chaplain Major Thomas Killgore of the two, who were fatally injured in a firefight at Shkin, close to the Pakistani border, Friday morning.
"It's about the camaraderie of the air man and the soldier."
Catholic priest Father Bleboo, originally from Ghana, and Protestant chaplain Jeff Struecker said prayers over the respective coffins before the cargo hold doors were shut and the plane took off for Kharsi Khanabad, Uzbekistan.
There the bodies would be transferred to a C-17 for the final journey home via Frankfurt to Dover, Delaware.
The latest deaths bring to four the US servicemen killed in Afghanistan in the past month. Two US soldiers were killed in an at it was a dangerous job.
"Whenever something like this happens, if you're a soldier, or a sailor or an airman or a Marine it always has a sobering effect," he said.
"You can say over and over again like this happens it just reinforces to you that this is a dangerous business, but it also reinforces in your own mind that it's an important job, somebody's got to do it and it's your turn, so you just do it."
King said a total of around 30 coalition troops had been killed by hostile fire in Afghanistan since October 2001.
Bagram, set on the Shomali plain against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains of the Hindu Kush range, is the headquarters of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan and home to around 3,500-4,000 troops at any one time.
Nearly 18 months after the fall of the Taliban the US-led coalition of more than 10,000 soldiers continues to hunt down fighters from the ousted militia and their al-Qaeda allies in the south and east of Afghanistan.