North Carolina soldier killed in Afghanistan laid to rest, hundreds attend his memorial service

ASHE COUNTY, N.C. – A soldier killed in the line of duty was laid to rest Friday in Ashe County.

Sergeant Dillon Baldridge was killed in Afghanistan on June 10th. He was only 22 years old.

“He dreamed to be a soldier, he was very good at it and he died doing what he loved,” said Melissa Strickland, Sgt. Baldridge’s aunt.

Strickland said Dillon was supposed to come home in July. Instead, he was brought home on Wednesday.

“When he arrived on Wednesday and we saw the plane door open it became very real,” Strickland said.

Hundreds of people lined the street in Wilkes County to honor him during his arrival. Hundreds more came to his memorial service Friday afternoon at Ashe County High School.

“I want to thank my brother for his sacrifice and thank you guys for being here,” said Zachary Palmer, Dillon’s brother.

Strickland says Baldridge enlisted in the Army after graduating high school and then he reenlisted last year. She says he was sent out on his first deployment in October.

“He lived to bring a smile to the face of others,” said Strickland. “He would do outrageous, crazy things just to make us laugh, make his friends laugh. He was just all heart.”

Strickland says that as Dillon’s family mourns, they hope others recognize his service.

“The sacrifice he made, he's a hero,” Strickland said. “We are so honored that all of these people out here recognize that he is a hero, that's all we wanted from the day that we heard this tragic news. I just wanted him to be recognized as the hero he is.”

Strickland said that before Dillon told his family that if anything were to happen to him, he wanted to be brought back to Ashe County.