First Lt. Matthew 'Mat' Fazzari was killed in action along with another pilot this week in Afghanistan.

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Family members of 1st Lt. Mathew "Mat" Fazzari are expected to witness the return of their fallen hero this evening in Dover, Del.

A ceremonious "dignified transfer" is planned upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cassidy Gloria this morning.

The transfer is part of the process by which the fallen military member is returned from the theater of operations. Family members will be present for what is described as a "solemn movement" from the aircraft to a waiting vehicle that will be driven to the Port Mortuary. A team of military personnel from the U.S. Army will carry the transfer case. The process will be presided over by a senior ranking officer.

Fazzari, 25, is the first Walla Walla soldier to be killed in action since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001 and the 49th Washington soldier killed there, according to The Associated Press and other online casualty databases.

He and fellow helicopter pilot Capt. Scott Pace, 39, of Brawley, Calif., died in Qarah Bagh in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan, on Wednesday from injuries suffered in a helicopter crash, the Department of Defense has said. The two were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C.

Gloria said Fazzari's remains will stay in Delaware for "a few days" before being released to his family for service arrangements.

He is the son of Greg and Dr. Susan Fazzari of Walla Walla; husband of Tovah Kingman Fazzari; and father of Dominic, 2, and Samuel, 8 months.

A 2005 Desales Catholic High School graduate and 2010 graduate of Gonzaga University, Fazzari was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army after being a four-year cadet in the nationally ranked ROTC at Gonzaga. He had just graduated from flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., in April and was then based out of Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C. This was his first tour.

Fazzari was reportedly part of a scout team of engaged Kiowa Warriors flying on a surveillance mission when his single-engine, four-bladed helicopter went down. A senior U.S. defense official who reportedly spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose crash details, said there had been no indication of enemy activity in the Ghazni area at the time. The AP reported Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had claimed in an email that the insurgents shot down the helicopter.

DeSales students, parents, faculty, and alumni took to a Facebook page -- WWCS School Counseling -- Thursday to post sentiments about their grief, regrets and comfort for the family.

Walla Walla County commissioners have ordered flags at all county offices lowered to half-staff in honor of Fazzari. They will remain so until further notice. Numerous businesses and other property owners have also lowered their flags.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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