DUNN, N.C. (WNCN) — There was a tremendous outpouring of support Tuesday night at Tyler Park in Dunn.
The touching event was to remember Laurin Gates, who was one of several Fort Hood soldiers who died when their vehicle overturned on a flooded road.
Gates — at just 20 years old — touched so many lives.
Becoming a soldier and serving our country was all Laurin Gates wanted to do.
Raised in Dunn, Gates attended Triton High School. She was homecoming queen. But her focus – her passion even then – was on the ROTC Drill Team.
“She just loved to help people, so the military was right for her,” one friend at the vigil said.
“She lived her dream. Even though it was short lived, she still had the possibility of living her dream,” said Derreck Nelson, Gates’ best friend
And that’s bringing comfort to Gates’ family and friends. She was stationed at Fort Hood just earlier this month.
Officials there say she was on a truck with 11 other soldiers when it overturned. A training exercise turned tragedy – Gates and 8 others were killed.
“I’m just in shock in all of this. I’m just trying to take it day by day.” said friend Paola Hyppolite.
But Hyppolite knew they had to do something more — do something to pay tribute to Gates. So Tuesday night, they held a balloon ceremony.
Also during the heartfelt event, one by one, people took the mic and shared memories.
“She was the best person you could ever meet. Always had a smile on her face,” one friend said from the podium.
“I’ve never seen her sad. Angry yes but sad no. So knowing Laurin she doesn’t want anyone to cry,” said Marlene Strongs, Gates’ mother
But it was hard to hold back that emotion as the balloons were released – and the realization that Gates was never coming home.
Gates’ funeral is scheduled for Sunday in Fayetteville.