Flags are flying at half-staff in Kentucky in honor of a highly decorated hero of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Marine described by a high school friend as "bigger than life."
Purple Heart recipient Master Sgt. Aaron C. Torian, 36, was killed by an enemy explosive in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan on Feb. 15.
He leaves behind a wife, Jurley, and three children, as well as his mother and other family members who live in Paducah.
Master Sgt. Torian was serving his sixth combat tour since joining the Marines in 2003.
In Iraq, he led a five-man unit through the brutal fighting in Fallujah and was named 2nd Marine Division's 2005 noncommissioned officer of the year for what his commanders called a stellar performance during Operation Phantom Fury which finally took control of the Anbar Province city from insurgents.
At the time of his death, Master Sgt. Torian was assigned to 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
He graduated from Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf, Md.; some of his high school friends joined his family at Dover Air Force Base for the return of his body, according to a local newspaper.
"He felt strongly about what we, the U.S.A, were doing and we backed him 100 percent," his mother Esta Smith told TV station WPSD 6 in Paducah.
Master Sgt. Torian will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
We honor his service and mourn his loss.