A young North Carolina man who stood up for the right to pray. A California soldier who filled his Facebook page with poems and love messages to his wife. A Maryland father whose wife called him her “soulmate.”
These were the three U.S. soldiers who were killed by an Afghan police officer who turned on them at the behest of the Taliban. They were identified as Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland; Sgt. William M. Bays, 29, of Barstow, California; and Corporal Dillon C. Baldridge, 22, of Youngsville, North Carolina.
One relative remembered Baldridge as the “best of all of us,” and that could be said for all three of the men. “Re-enlisted for another term. I love this job too much to walk away from it,” Baldridge wrote in 2016 on Facebook, along with this photo:
USA Today labeled the shooting deaths an “insider attack.”
According to USA Today, the Afghan commando “turned his weapon on U.S. soldiers Saturday (June 10),” in eastern Afghanistan.
The Afghan soldier’s identity was not released, but he was killed after the attack. Below, you can read remembrances about all three men, in alphabetical order.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Shootings Occurred in a District Where the U.S. Forces Were Fighting ISIS & Baldridge Was Remembered as a Person Who Brightened Up ‘Any Room’
On Facebook, a relative of Baldridge wrote: “We must honor him and be our best selves every day❤️🙏🏻” Others filled Facebook with positive remembrances of the young North Carolina man.
“He’s the best of all of us,” Jessie Baldridge wrote on Facebook, sharing this series of photos of the heroic soldier.
“Dillon was such a sweet and kind young man. Everyone in school loved him. He would always smile and brighten up any room he walked into,” wrote one friend, saying it was a privilege to know and graduate with Baldridge. On Facebook, Baldridge posted a photo of himself with a Remember 9/11 sign, and wrote about relationships, exploring caves, and the military. A year ago, he wrote, “I passed the promotion board today in order to be promoted to sergeant!! #merica.” He was single and a graduate of Franklinton High School.
He once wrote, “I have the most stressful job in the world, like literally the most stressful according to studies.”
The Afghan forces and the U.S. soldiers were working together to root out ISIS militancy in Afghanistan.
USA Today reported that the “shooting occurred in Achin district, where U.S. special forces have been fighting alongside Afghan troops against Islamic State and Taliban militants.”
2. Baldridge Once Spoke Out About a High School Graduation Ban on Prayer & the Taliban Says the Attacker Infiltrated the Afghan Military
The young man from North Carolina once spoke out in the news media when his high school graduation banned prayer. “Graduating seniors at Franklinton High shared a moment of silence at their graduation ceremony Saturday after the school board banned public prayer last month,” reported Fox 8 at the time. The story quotes Baldridge as saying he joined a group of students who decided to pray outside the graduation.
“Being able to come out here and pray with the group was great, so it worked out,” he said to the television station. You can watch the interview with him here.
Jessie Baldridge shared the video and wrote, “Dillon Christopher Baldridge is my bonus son, i’ve known him since he was 10. He always inspired me to be better every day. He was the best of all of us. This video of him speaks to who he was as a person.”
There is a GoFundMe site to benefit Baldridge’s family.
His mother wrote in a social media post:
For those of you who don’t know yet, my beautiful baby boy was killed in Afghanistan yesterday. He was such a good person. Everyone who knew him, loved him. He was everything a mom hopes and prays their child will be. He was the sweetest little boy. He grew into an amazing man who was so loving, so compassionate, so wise, and probably the funniest person I know. Dillon never cared about what other people thought. He loved his mama, his family, and his friends with everything he had. He also loved his country and wanted to defend, serve, and protect. He did just that. He died doing what he wanted to be doing. He went out with his boots on as they say. I want to thank all of his friends who have reached out to me and posted such beautiful things about him. I choose to remember the good times, and they are countless. When he was two he told Santa Claus that his breath stunk. There was never a dull moment from that point on. He was such a bright spot to so many. I am so very proud of him. He is my role model and my hero. He is being flown to Dover Airforce base. He comes home tomorrow. I will be there to welcome him home to the country he loves. I will continue to post updates as I get them. As soon as arrangements are made I will get the information out. I welcome anyone who wants to come and stay with me. Just bring a sleeping bag and pillow. If you can get here, you have a place to stay. Let’s honor his life together.”
Afghan officials said the killer wasn’t turned by the Taliban; he entered Afghanistan’s military in order to attack other soldiers.
At least that’s the account according to the Taliban.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement “that a Taliban loyalist had infiltrated the Afghan army ‘just to attack foreign forces,'” Fox News reported.
3. William Bays Filled His Facebook Page With Love Messages to His Wife, Who Responded That She Couldn’t Imagine Her Life Without Him
On Facebook, William Bays wrote lovingly about his wife, Jasmin. On Valentine’s Day, he wrote, “Sometimes in life you win the jackpot… I won my jackpot when I got to marry the most amazing woman in the world. I know sometimes I’m not the most romantic guy or even the most thoughtful. Jasmin thank you for being such an amazing wife and always being there. I’m glad I have the rest of my life to try and become the husband you deserve in life. Happy Valentine’s Day my love 😚😚”
She responded in part, “I love you my bestest friend and thanks for being such an amazing husband and dad. Couldn’t imagine my life without you😚😚” In another post she wrote, “I love you my everything.”
Bays also shared a poem to his wife:
This was his cover photo:
Bays shared political commentary on social media, about flag desecration, Donald Trump’s extreme vetting and the rape of Yazidi girls in Iraq. He was friends on Facebook with Baldridge. His wife shared family photos of her husband in fatigues and their three daughters.
It’s not the first time that an insider attack has been staged against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It’s a tactic the Taliban has used before.
“In March, another Afghan soldier was killed after he opened fire on foreign forces at a base in Helmand province, wounding three U.S. soldiers,” reported Fox News.
4. Eric Houck Was Remembered as a Loving Father & His Wife Urged Him to ‘Soar High’
Eric Houck was married with children, and he plastered his Facebook page with photos of his family. His wife, Samantha, wrote on Facebook, “Soar High Baby, I love you Eric Houck with all I got❤ you are and will always be mine!!! Thank you everyone for you kind words and condolences! It means more than you all know!!!!”
On June 11, she wrote in a heartwrenching post, “hoping this was all a bad dream baby, life is not fair!! I neeeeed you, and God knew that!!!!!! You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, I’m so angry at God for taking you from us! He we suppose to protect you, He was suppose to bring you home to us! I promise I will do all I can for our babies and I will make you proud! I love you so very much!!! This hurts soo bad!!! Forever our Hero, Forever our Angel❤️ Fly High Baby!!!! #mysoulmate.”
Houck’s father wrote on Facebook, “Father/husband,son,brother,soldier. That’s the order. Rest in peace my son.”
A GoFundMe site has been established to help Houck’s family.
The White House confirmed that President Donald Trump was briefed on what it called an “emerging” situation, NBC News reported.
NBC News reported that the shooter was a member of the “Afghan National Army’s Commando Forces.”
5. The Shooter Was Also Killed During the Attack
Although details were still unfolding, NBC News reported that the shooter was also killed, along with the three American soldiers.
The shooter died in “return fire,” reported NBC. NBC reported, “The soldiers were assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Company D, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, KY.”
This post is being updated as more information about the soldiers is learned.