HOUSTON (KTRK) --The Southwest Airlines flight landed at Hobby Airport full of passengers but one hero would be the first off the plane.
The flag-draped casket of Captain Bill Dowling was met by an honor guard, the captain's family and city leaders, as military hero protocol was followed throughout the flight.
The captain's body was flown from Colorado, where he retired, through Albuquerque and on to Houston.
For the captain, it had been four long years of fighting and perseverance.
He was an inspiration to all who had heard his story.
Charles Livanec, who participated in the Wall of Honor, said, "It's a sad day. It was a sad day almost four years ago when we lost the four (firemen) and can't help but think about the firemen in heaven, these are their tears being shed, this rain."
Dowling died from complications following his line of duty injuries during the Southwest Inn fire of 2013.
Four firefighters died in what was the deadliest day in HFD history.
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The captain, who's become known as "Iron Bill", lost his legs and suffered a brain injury but survived.
HFD Executive Assistant Chief Richard Mann said, "he absolutely earned the name 'Iron Bill' and they have earned the name 'Iron Family' as well."
The procession from Hobby passed a moving display of honor and tribute through the rainy night.
Mary and Larry Crawford stood under an umbrella as part of the Wall of Honor as the procession arrived at a Tomball funeral home. Mary Crawford said, "We wouldn't have missed this for anything, this is really an important time to be here."
The procession went under overpasses of full salutes and passed miles of patriotic presence on to the wall of honor where citizens could join in the tribute at a Tomball funeral home.
Asst. Chief Mann added, "This is a very gripping event for us, we're bringing him back to Houston where we can honor him. Celebrate his life, what he's done for the city."
It was a chance for an entire city to display gratitude, "God bless all the firemen, they put their lives on the line every time," said Crawford.
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