BRANDENTON, Fla. — A fallen Manatee County soldier is back home.
- Army Spc. Nicholas Panipinto died while training in Korea
- Panipinto died Nov. 6
- Panipinto brought home Wednesday; area residents gathering in Bradenton to honor him
U.S. Army Spc. Nicholas Panipinto died during a training accident in South Korea on Nov. 6.
Panipinto, who attended Manatee High School, was 20 years old.
He attended Manatee High School and was the oldest of seven siblings.
The news of his death has been crushing for this Bradenton family.
“He was supposed to be safe! On a base. Training on a base. That’s the safest thing I could think of," said his father, Anthony Panipinto.
He also loved hunting, fishing, and took any chance he could to be outside.
His father said Nicholas wasn't sure at first what wanted to do after high school, so the U.S. Army seemed like a good fit. He soon fell in love with be being a soldier.
“He was just falling into everything. It was just getting good for him, I think," he said.
Community shows love, respect
When the Patriot Guard escorting Panipinto's casket made its way across the Green Bridge, the Bradenton community was ready.
On a cool, blustery night people lined the roadway, flags in hand, ready to welcome him home one last time.
"The least I can do is stand here and I'll be here until midnight if he's late, it doesn't matter," said resident Travis Palmer.
Most of the people lining the road didn't know Panipinto, but Wednesday night he was family.
"If it would have been either one of my sons I would definitely want people here and showing respect and love," said resident Fay Baugher.
Resident Chris Boehly knows Panipinto's grandfather. Boehly, too, wanted to be there to pay his respects.
"You now, it's a 20 year old, just starting life, protecting our rights and freedom," he said.
The community stood shoulder-to-shoulder until the flashing lights of the Patriot Guard came into view, and they shared this message to those who knew and loved him.
"Another soldier is going home," Boehly said.
Panipinto is expected to be laid to rest on Friday at the Sarasota National Cemetery, however, the cemetery’s website has the service scheduled at 2 p.m. on Nov. 20.
Anyone wanting to pay their respects should call the cemetery for verification at 877-861-9840.