FLINT (WWJ/AP) – A combat engineer from Flint who died two days after being wounded in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan believed so strongly in the Army’s mission that he volunteered to serve his latest tour there, his aunt said.
“This is what he loved. He loved being a U.S. Army soldier,” Martha Alexander said of her nephew, Sgt. Joseph Lilly.
The 25-year-old was injured June 12 by an improvised explosive device in Kandahar province and died two days later, the Pentagon said. Another member of his unit from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Spc. Trevor Pinnick, 20, of Lawrenceville, Ill., also was killed.
Alexander – the sister of Lilly’s mother, who died 13 years ago – recalled a recent conversation the two shared via Skype.
In it, Lilly told his aunt, “I’m going to sound weird, but I enjoy it.”
Alexander responded: “Not everybody gets to do what they wanted to do. You’re very lucky.”
Lilly was hit by a sniper’s bullet only weeks before his death, resulting in a wound on his chin that required a few stitches, Alexander said.
“He was just upset that he was sidelined,” she said.
Lilly was a 2005 Carman-Ainsworth High School graduate, where he was active in stage crew. As a soldier, he also served in Iraq and in South Korea. He is survived by wife Katrina and their son Alexander, 3.
Michael Lilly, 55, said he was proud of his son’s choice to fight for his country and said his son’s ideals have much to teach.
“Joe knew what the consequence was,” the elder Lilly told Mlive.com. “It was worth it to him because he believed in what he was doing. He was trying to keep us free out of the clutches of terrorism. He accepted the risk. That right there is someone who has a lot of guts.”
Joseph Lilly’s body was flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware over the weekend. A funeral is planned at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly Township, but a date hasn’t been set, his father said.
Lilly was assigned to the 18th Engineer Company, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Lewis-McChord.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has ordered U.S. flags throughout the state to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Sgt. Lilly on Tuesday, June 26. Flags should be returned to full-staff on Wednesday, June 27.
TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.