ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A 21-year-old Navajo soldier killed in Afghanistan was described by his mother as someone who made everyone smile and his father remembered him as an outgoing man with an interest in the outdoors and art.
Navajo Nation Council Delegate David Tom of Beclabito-Cudii and his wife, Carolyn Tom, flew to Dover Air Force Base, Del., for a brief ceremony Thursday night when the body of their son, Army Spec. Troy Orion Tom, was brought back to the United States.
"Right now he's just our hero," David Tom said Friday. "His family is all proud of him that he was out there, serving his country."
His son was killed Monday in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan. David Tom said the family was told he stepped on a roadside bomb when his unit was setting up camp after a fight with Taliban insurgents.
Tom joined the Army in June 2006 after graduating from Aztec High School and was based in Fort Lewis, Wash. His father said he joined the military because he wanted to physically and mentally challenge himself.
"He was the nicest, the kindest, son. He made everybody smile. He always had a smile on his face _ never, ever did he get mad. We're going to miss him very much," Carolyn Tom said before breaking down in tears.
David Tom said his son liked to hunt, fish and sketch, and enjoyed herding sheep when he was back on the reservation.
Services are set for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Civic Center in Farmington.
George Hardeen, spokesman for Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., said Tom is the ninth Navajo member of the military to die in either Afghanistan or Iraq since 2004.
Shirley will order flags lowered to half-staff before the funeral, Hardeen said.
Sue Major Holmes, Associated Press Writer AP