He died in Beaumont trying to be a better firefighter. On Wednesday, those who loved Capt. Neal Smith, along with those who never knew him, gathered together to honor his sacrifice.
With her arms full and her heart heavy, Megan Nieman made sure she was here.
"Pay your respects," she said.
And as Capt. Smith's body passed by Atascocita Fire Station No. 1, it was clearly personal.
"Because it could have been my family," Nieman said.
Both Nieman's brother and mother are Atascocita volunteer firefighters. They have all spent the last two days mourning their comrade's death. Capt. Smith died Monday from heat-related injuries suffered over the weekend during a firefighter training exercise in Beaumont.
On Wednesday afternoon at 2:44pm, he made his final trip home, past the fire station where, for no compensation, he gave much of his time over the last five years.
"I can't even imagine how much he's going to be missed," Atascocita Fire Dept. Deputy Chief Mike Mulligan said.
And he got a hero's welcome.
"When one of them loses the battle, loses the fight, they deserve this," Mulligan said.
Capt. Smith leaves behind a wife and two school-aged children.
The funeral service for Capt. Smith is scheduled to begin 10am Monday at the First Assembly Of God Church, at 1915 FM 1960 Bypass Road East in Humble.
A public viewing is scheduled 5-8pm Sunday at the Rosewood Funeral Home, 2602 South Houston Ave. in Humble.