Merced Soldier Dies in Afghanistan

The American flag flies over Cheryl Hurne's home in Merced.

It's a flag that she bought to pay tribute to her brother, Army Spc. Terry Hurne, and chronicle his service in Afghanistan.

"I told him that I was going to put up my flag, and that it was going to stay up until he came home safe," she says.

"He hugged me and told me don't worry, don't worry, it's gonna be fine. I'll be back, I promise."

He made it back his first tour.

Tragically, he lost his life Monday morning in Eastern Afghanistan.

He had been scheduled to return home the first week of July.

"I try not to think about it too hard," says Hurne, looking through pictures of her brother.

The Department of Defense reports Spc. Hurne died from a "non-combat related incident."

"He was so proud. He wanted so badly to go into the military," she says.

Spc. Hurne was assigned to the 710th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York.

He worked on vehicles and air conditioning units.

He was good at carpentry, too, and even helped build barracks.

Fellow soldiers had singled him out just two weeks ago as the "epitome of a swiss army knife."

Even with the tough skillset, "He was the sweetest, kindest person that you could ever meet. He never had a bad word to say about anybody. He was always smiling, ready to have fun."

Some of those friends he made along the way, gathered for a special prayer vigil in Atwater Tuesday night.

The church, was just blocks away from Atwater High School, where he graduated in 1998.

"Terry was a hero in all parts of his life, not just with the military," says Cheryl Hurne.

Spc. Hurne is survived by his wife of eight years, his parents, a brother and two sisters.

Funeral services are pending.