By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A small community draws together after a local soldier is killed half a world away.

Alex DeMetrick reports, family and friends remember Army Sgt. Eric Houck.

The Perry Hall community gathered at the elementary school at 7:30 a.m. Thursday. Drawn by the loss of one of their own, 25-year-old Houck. He was killed in Afghanistan along with two fellow soldiers — 22-year-old Cpl. Dillon C. Baldridge, of Youngsville, North Carolina, and 29-year-old Sgt. William M. Bays, of Barstow, California.

Their bodies were returned to Dover Air Force Base, while the Army investigated claims by the Taliban that one of its fighters had infiltrated the Afghan army and killed the three U.S. soldiers.

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends… our thanks and praise for the life of Sgt. Eric Houck who honorably served his country and laid down his life,” said the priest at the early morning ceremony.

“And from what I understand he did his job, and he did it well, so I’m extremely proud of him,” says his father, Mike Houck.

Pride and painful loss for not only the father, but for Eric’s sister, Jessica, his widow Samantha, and their two young children. Eric and Samantha knew each other since grade school. Their son, Eric. Jr., is 5, their daughter, Violet, is 3.

“I’m heartbroken by what happened and just had to be here for the family,” said Jean Stillnock, a family friend.

“My oldest son met Eric when he was just 4 in tiny tots, so they went all through schools together,” said another friend, Lisa Fisher.

A wreath-laying ceremony at Perry Hall’s Veterans Memorial was held at the school’s flag pole.

“We know the fathers, the mothers that are awake at night, waiting for their loved ones to come home,” said Jack Amrhein, of the Perry Hall Improvement Association. “The people who served with him respected him, loved him, knew the kind of man he was, and that his family was the most important thing to him.”

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