“While my heart aches for him being gone, I know that there’s no more pain, no more suffering, and I am so proud of what he did,” Beth Strickland Funk said Wednesday. “He died doing what he wanted to do and doing what he loved.”
Funk’s son, Spc. Joshua “Jay” Strickland was one of three U.S. Army Special Operations soldiers who were killed Saturday afternoon in Gardez, Afghanistan, when an Afghan soldier suddenly turned his gun on them, military officials said Tuesday.
His body arrived back on American soil Monday night and will soon be sent to the Tacoma, Wash., area for burial where his wife and three young children live, Funk said. Services had not yet been scheduled.
Strickland left Etowah High School in 2008 and joined the Army as a mechanic. He was a decorated member of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations and was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.
Funk said her family has a long history of military service, and Strickland and two of his siblings took the family tradition to heart and chose to serve as well.
“I come from a military family,” Funk said. “I grew up as patriotic as patriotic could be, before 9/11 happened. That’s what Jay grew up knowing and loving.”
Once Strickland’s remains are released from Dover Air Base in Delaware, where an autopsy is being conducted, Funk said her younger son Caleb, who is a Marine, will be escorting his brother to Washington to his final resting place.
The soldier’s twin brother, Andrew Strickland, said his brother was proud to serve.
“I myself take great comfort … that he died in service to his country, and he died doing what he loved,” Andrew Strickland, who formerly served in the military, said Tuesday night.
Andrew Strickland said he also finds comfort knowing that his brother wasn’t made to suffer long before death.
“He was taken by surprise,” he said. “There’s no way he could’ve ever seen it coming, so there was no panic, no fear, no pain. Just one day he’s here; the next he isn’t.”
Funk, who moved to Texas from Woodstock around 2008, said there are many who will miss her son now that he’s gone.
“We’ve been away from Georgia now for six years and his friends still call me,” she said.
One of Strickland’s friends, J.D. Hendrix, said Strickland made a lasting impression. Hendrix, a Woodstock native living in Atlanta, said Tuesday he and Strickland became friends while they worked at a restaurant together in 2007.
“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.”
Strickland’s mother also said her son was showing his character at a young age, even before kindergarten when she was a single mother trying to get by raising three boys on her own.
“He was there holding Mommy up and encouraging me, even at such a young age, not to give up,” she said. “He just was an amazing young man.”