Final farewell Monday for soldier from Brooklyn

July 15, 2013 5:07:31 AM PDT
On a day when Americans were celebrating their independence, 18-year-old combat engineer Private Elijiah Milliard from Brooklyn died for his country in Afghanistan.

On Sunday, mourners dressed in black said their goodbyes at Milliard's funeral at Clarendon Road Church in East Flatbush. His family is still coming to terms with what happened.

"I learned that freedom is not free, and that he paid the ultimate price with his life," said Milliard's cousin, Karen Elbers.

Milliard's cousins say the teen always wanted to be a soldier, but his life was cut short on the Fourth of July when his unit was attacked by enemy combatants armed with rocket propelled grenades. It was Milliard's first deployment.

The army posthumously awarded him the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, the good conduct medal and promoted him to private first class.

Milliard was close with his family. He leaves behind his parents, grandparents, a brother, sister and a girlfriend.

If a hero is someone who gives up everything for the greater good, then Private First Class Elijiah Milliard exemplifies sacrifice.

"He was excited to go and defend his country, to learn more about himself and to develop his leadership skills and also to come back and start college," said cousin Paulette Elbers.

Milliard will be buried Monday morning with full Military honors at Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island.