Hundreds gather to honor Franklin County soldier killed in Afghanistan

YOUNGSVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — On Saturday night hundreds of people packed Luddy Park in Youngsville to remember 22-year-old Dillion Baldridge.

Those who knew him said Baldridge was born to be a soldier and he died doing what he loved, protecting his country.

Sgt Dillion Baldridge lost his life on June 10 while serving in Afghanistan. He was one of three soldiers killed by an Afghan soldier. The Taliban has since claimed responsibility for the attack.

“It hit me like a brick wall honestly,” said William Walsh, who served with Baldridge. “At first you’re kind of devoid of emotion and it’s hard to feel anything at all because you don’t know what to feel, just a shock to the system and then you battle with sadness and anger. You want answers that you’re just never gonna get.”

Walsh met Baldridge on their first enlistment in Hawaii when they were both 18. He says it wasn’t long before he called Baldridge his best friend.

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“He would want all of us to be positive going forward,” said Walsh. “Hug everybody a little bit tighter, love a little bit deeper and just be the person you would wanna be around all the time because that’s who he was.”

Baldridge’s younger brother Zachary Palmer says he didn’t even know most of the hundreds of people who came to honor Baldridge’s memory and he couldn’t be more grateful that they came.

“You guys don’t have to know him personally, but you can see how many lives he’s touched,” Palmer said.

Palmer says during the last face-to-face conversation he had with his brother he told him he wanted to join the US Air Force.

“He got really excited for me and he told me to go for it and he had my back,” said Palmer.

Palmer says he hasn’t changed his plans.

“He was so excited for me. I can just see it now. I was looking forward to taking a picture of us in our uniforms. He would never want me to back down,” Palmer added.

Palmer says he’s looking forward to beginning his military career and he knows his brother will be right by his side through it all.

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