The people who knew Sam Watts growing up say he always gravitated toward serving others. Watts was even planning on becoming a firefighter after his military service.
"Sam was always the kid, if somebody got hurt on the playground, Sam was the first one to run over and see if they were OK and yell at the teacher for help," said his first grade teacher's aide, Cathy Schumacher
"How can you not come and honor a man with that kind of integrity and compassion and willingness to serve others?" Schumacher said.
Watts was wounded by an improvised explosive device April 25, in Zharay, Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense. He died May 19 in Bethesda, Md., and his family and friends remembered him at his funeral Wednesday at St. John Lutheran Church, 410 N. Cross St., in Wheaton.
Watts was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. He graduated from Wheaton North High School and was an accomplished BMX biker.
As part of a huge show of support Wednesday for the Watts family, the Patriot Guard Riders were part of the procession.
"I just wanted to be here to commemorate the young soldier's life and give whatever comfort I could to his family," said veteran Michael Lance, who doesn't know the family personally. "I just appreciate what the young men and women in uniform do for us."