BRADENTON, Fla. - A local family is mourning the loss of a Bradenton soldier who died during combat in Afghanistan.
Army Specialist Patrick Lay died Thursday when an improvised explosive device hit the armored vehicle he was in. He was just 21 years old.
"The last 24 hours have been a very big roller coaster ride of emotions. Anger, because of the conditions, yet so proud because he represented his country," said Lay's uncle, Dale Eason.
Lay was engaged to be married to his high school sweetheart. He graduated from Braden River High School in 2008, where he played football. At the summer graduation ceremony on Saturday, there was a moment of silence in his honor. School officials describe Lay as a fine young man who had character and dedication.
Lay's family says while it is tough to deal with his death, they are so proud of how he died.
"He made an impact on people and definitely has...he definitely had a soldier's heart. He would've defended you. Well, obviously he did. He defended us until his death," said Eason.
Lay's close family members were at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Saturday for the arrival of his body.
There is no word just yet on funeral arrangements.