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Tarrant County Family Grieves Loss Of Soldier Who Died In Afghanistan

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The American Flag waves. (credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The American Flag waves. (credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

HASLET (CBSDFW.COM) - A Tarrant County family is grieving the loss of a son and soldier, killed on active duty six days ago.

Sergeant Jay Strickland, 23, of the U.S. Army Special Forces, is one of three soldiers who died on a training operation in Afghanistan last Saturday.

The Department of Justice says a man dressed in an Afghan army uniform turned on his allies during a training exercise.

Sgt. Strickland leaves behind his wife, Heather, and children Maddie, Landon, and Victoria in Seattle, WA. In Texas: mother Beth Funk and stepfather Jim Funk; a twin brother, two younger brothers and a younger sister. One brother, Lance Corporal Caleb Nicholson, is in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“[My brother] loved what he did. He was very proud of what he did, and that pride came all the way home,” said LCpl Nicholson.

Sgt. Strickland will be laid to rest the first week in October in the national cemetery in Tacoma.

“He had a smile that would light up a room. He loved kids, loved people. We know he’s in a better place now, probably laughing at all of us. He was just a great kid,” said Jim Funk, Sgt. Strickland’s stepfather.

The soldier spent several years in the North Texas town of Haslet, where his mother and father still live.

When people in the Sendera Ranch neighborhood learned of the Funk’s loss, they organized a show of support within hours.

Friends and strangers lined the streets leading up to the family’s home in American flags and ribbons.

“We appreciate knowing what their son did. We appreciate them being here and giving his life too, so we have freedom. It’s bringing a lot of people to tears when they drive up and down the road,” said Scarlette Martin, who helped out.

“Whatever they need, we’re here for them as a community,” said David Carothers.

The Funks are overwhelmed by the kind gesture, and say, in an unbelievably difficult time, it makes their days a little easier.

“We have our moments, but we can drive down the street and see the flags. It’s very comforting to know these people are here and supporting us, and if we need anything they have our backs. It’s just amazing,” said Jim Funk.

The Funks are hoping to hold a memorial service for friends, family and the greater community in North Texas the week after Sgt. Strickland’s funeral.

They would also like to have an official memorial on site at the national cemetery here, as a place to lay flowers and pay tribute to their loved one.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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