The father of a Sacramento soldier killed in action in Afghanistan over the weekend awaited the return of his son's remains Monday evening at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
"We miss him. We love him. We're proud of him," said Jose Ramirez, moments before the aircraft carrying the coffin of Specialist Ray A. Ramirez, 20, landed.
He died Saturday in Wardak province from injuries caused by an improvised explosive device.
Ramirez was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
Ramirez graduated from Florin High School in 2010 and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2011. He arrived in Afghanistan, his first deployment, two months ago.
His aunt, Michelle Miller, said she communicated on Facebook with her nephew during his tour. She said he mentioned being homesick but never regretted joining the military.
Miller said he wanted to do something with his life and planned to attend college.
He was shy as a child and his joining the military was a surprise, she said, showing how he had matured.
Miller said soldiers in full dress uniforms notified the family on Saturday, visiting Ramirez's mother, Angelina Bueno, at her home in Natomas. The news shocked the family.
"To me, he's still a kid, 20 years old," Miller said. "He still had a lot to live for. His long life ahead of him was unfortunately cut short. He was very proud to serve his country, and he will be greatly missed."
Florin High's baseball coach Ken O'Flaherty, who trained Ramirez for three years, described him as a talented pitcher and shortstop.
Ramirez was respectful and close with his parents, sister and stepbrother, O'Flaherty said.
Assistant Coach Randy Davis described Ramirez as "my hero Ray."
Call The Bee's Jeffrey Dastin, (916) 321-1037. The Bee's Bill Lindelof contributed to this report.