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A Vilseck, Germany-based soldier was scheduled to get a hero’s treatment on Thursday when he was buried in Glendale, Ariz.

Spc. Aaron J. Walker, 23, was killed Sept. 18 in Baghdad when his unit came under small-arms fire, according to a Defense Department press release.

In Peoria, members of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group were scheduled to ride in his funeral procession.

“We’re staging up right now,” Louann Thomas said by telephone from Peoria. “We have about 20 bikes right now and people are putting the flags on their bikes. We’ll have double or triple that many by the time we’re finished.”

Walker, of Harker Heights, Texas, was with 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division. He was known as A.J. to his friends.

“He was such a strong Christian and had such deep beliefs that he had ‘Real men love Jesus,’ tattooed on his back. He was a deeply spiritual guy,” said Spc. Austin Roden, a friend.

“He didn’t smoke or drink, and at any social function he was always in our little circle of guys. He had a really huge heart.”

Walker was the first soldier killed in action from the Vilseck-based regiment since it deployed to Iraq in August.

Thomas, the Arizona state captain of Patriot Guard Riders, a national organization, said the plan on Thursday was to ride in formation to Walker’s funeral, then ride in formation to the soldier’s burial site in Glendale, which the group calls Walker’s “final duty station.”

“We’re America, and he needs to know we waited for him,” Thomas said.

“His family has been so gracious. They have been so welcoming of us. The father is very grateful to know his son is being honored. And his wife told me A.J. would have loved this.”

Walker was married in July 2006. He and his wife, Amber, had no children. Walker is also survived by his mother, Ann, and father, Darryl, who are both pastors; a brother, Alex; and a sister, Andee.

On Monday, a memorial service was held for Walker at Vilseck chapel.


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