U.S. Army Sgt. Jeremie Border with his parents, Robert Harris and Mary Border, at Jeremie’s Green Beret graduation.

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – U.S. Army Sgt. Jeremie Border wasn’t always a stern-faced Green Beret.  Longtime neighbors in his Mesquite neighborhood still remember the energetic kid who loved sports — especially football.

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“Every weekend you’d see their house rolled with toilet paper, that’s the thing they do out here,” said a smiling Mary Counts. “I remember the toilet paper rolls,” agreed  neighbor Nancy Mitchell, nodding, “And playing ball out in the streets.”

But, both neighbors acknowledged heavy hearts as they thought of the mom who had raised her children alone, preparing now to bury her only son.

“As a mom, I just can’t imagine,” Counts said.  “I can’t imagine what she’s going through.”  With her voice starting to break she said, “It’s just kind of a shock… it’s one of our own.”

Mary’s husband, John Counts, carries a couple of sympathy cards door to door — collecting notes for the grieving family as a way to let them know how much their neighbors care.

“That boy’s over there fighting for our lives, fighting for us, and he gets killed… and that’s bad,” says John, now overcome with emotion.

Sgt. Border was a 2002 graduate of Mesquite High School.  Even now, Head Coach Robbie Robinson remembers Border fondly.

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“Outstanding kid, you can’t say enough good things about him,” says Coach Robinson.  “Those guys did something here that nobody else has ever done, you know, in winning a state championship, really special bunch of kids.”

Family members say Border became a special young man — the adoring younger brother as his sister married, a devoted son to his mother Mary Border and stepfather Robert Harris, and ultimately “the baddest of the bad”, an Army Green Beret.

“Each time he had to go on a tour, they’d have a big ‘to do’ for him, ” recalled Nancy Mitchell.  “We all felt happy for them.”

But, now, those same neighbors are grieving for them– and making plans to make sure the Border family knows how much they care.

“I thank him for being there for me,” John Counts said, once again losing his battle to hold back tears. “I’d give anything to bring him back.”

Sgt. Border was a 2006 graduate of McMurry University in Abilene.  School president Dr. John Russell released a statement extending “heartfelt prayers and condolences to Jeremie’s family as we remember his friendship and honor him for the ultimate sacrifice he made in service in to our country.”

Flags on McMurry campus are being flown at half-staff in his memory.

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“He died a hero,” added Mary Counts.