COLORADO SPRINGS — Hundreds gathered to remember the life of fallen Green Beret Sergeant Major James Ryan Sartor.
He passed away on July 13, just three weeks before he was set to return home and retire.
Even though Sartor was a Texas native, he lived in falcon with his family for eleven years and during that time he turned into a community staple for everyone who knew him.
Today, more than 700 people gathered to remember Sartor, honor his legacy of leadership and bravery, and show support for his wife and three children who will help carry on that legacy.
Through the rain, Patriot Guard Riders welcomed a hero at the Air Force Academy, as pallbearers carried the Sartor's casket up the steps of the Cadet Chapel.
Inside, a funeral service recognized the special forces Green Beret admired by so many.
"He's the greatest man I've ever known and the greatest influence," said one of his fellow servicemembers.
"[He was] the most genuine friend, the greatest leader and an absolute true warrior," said another.
Behind this warrior, his wife Deanna.
They were together for 18 years, and this was supposed to be the year he returned for good.
"I took this deployment for granted, because I thought we had passed the point of danger, and I thought he was coming home in three weeks and we were retiring soon and we'd finally get to spend our lives together," she said through tears.
"But that wasn't to be. And he lived the life he was supposed to live."
For the life he lived, Sartor was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star medals.
And though this family has been torn apart, they walk together, knowing they carry on everything Sartor fought for.
"I know that I have a life to live with my children," Sartor's wife said.
And wrapped around them, in a line made up of hundreds, is an entire community who stands by the man who died protecting their freedom.
"He loved the men around him with everything he had," Deanna emphasized.
An additional memorial will be held in Teague Texas on August 31.