Spc. Joshua “Jay” Strickland, 23, of Woodstock, died along with two other American soldiers in Gardez, Afghanistan, after the three were shot by an Afghan soldier, said Lt. Col. David Simons, spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force.
Simons, a member of the Georgia Air National Guard, said Tuesday the Afghan soldier turned his gun on the Americans and was “immediately” killed by another Afghan for taking the shots.
“(The Afghan soldier) opened up and was taken out by one of his officers,” Simons said.
Strickland was a member of the U.S Army’s Special Operations and was assigned to Group Support Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group Airborne. He was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.
The Woodstock man’s body arrived back on American soil Monday night at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, said Maj. Allison Aguilar, spokesperson for U.S. Army Special Forces.
As of late afternoon Tuesday, Aguilar said she was not aware of what the funeral arrangements would be or where Strickland’s remains would be sent.
Nick Maddox of Woodstock, a now-grieving friend of Strickland, also said Tuesday he was waiting to hear where and when the funeral for Strickland would take place.
“Wherever it’s being done, there’s a big group of us that’s flying out to meet the family,” said Maddox, who attended Etowah High School with Strickland.
Maddox said he and Strickland remained close after Strickland enlisted in the Army in 2008.
“We hung out all the time until he and his brother joined the Army,” he said. “Everybody was real close-knit. Since then, he’s been married and has three kids.”
So far, Maddox said Strickland’s family is doing as well as possible with the loss.
“You can only imagine getting news that your son or you brother or your husband is not coming home,” he said. “That’s a really unexplainable pain to be able to go through and face.”
Another friend of Strickland’s, J.D. Hendrix, remembers Strickland as a hard worker who loved his family.
“I never met any of his kids or his wife, but he always talked about them with such love and you could always tell everything he did was for them,” said Hendrix, who met Strickland when they worked together at a restaurant in 2007.
While working at the restaurant, Hendrix said he was taken with Strickland’s good humor and strong work ethic.
“I saw him as a leader,” Hendrix said. “He may not have struck many at that age or that time as someone with leadership potential, but he was. He was, and in my mind still is, one of the hardest working people I know. He was always working harder than anyone else.”
Hendrix said that impression Strickland made will last.
“I hope that his wife and children will be as OK as they can be and understand their father was and always will be a hero,” he said.
Strickland graduated from Etowah High School in 2008, one year after 24-year-old state Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock).
Caldwell said Tuesday that he never got the chance to know Strickland, but heard his name around school.
“I didn’t know him personally, but knew of him,” Caldwell said. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends. We’re very saddened, but thankful to a fellow Etowah alumnus for giving the ultimate sacrifice in protection of our liberties.”