Army Staff Sgt. Matt Sitton
Largo, Florida - The sound of raking and the plop of mulch bags greet visitors to a house on a quiet Largo street. Two women are turning a dusty patch green. Planting a garden is their way of trying to heal the heart of their friend Cheryl Sitton.
"I think we just wanted to do a little labor of love, just sort of help her focus on new life," says Dee Bates, rake in hand.
Cheryl and her husband Steve are dealing with loss. On Thursday, the Army informed them that their son Matt was killed by a bomb in Afghanistan.
At Indian Rocks Christian School, where Matt Sitton graduated in 2004, there are memories of a standout athlete and tears for the young man with outstanding character.
"My Matty" is what Julie Pigsley calls him. "He would say the funniest things at the perfect time; just fast on his feet-hilarious," recalls Pigsley. "But he had this compassionate heart that knew when you needed a hug."
Teacher and coach D.J. Springman watched Sitton grow up, turning from kid, to man, to husband and father. And at Sitton's soul, Springman says, was a love for God and country.
"He shared with me -- that was what he was born to do. 'Coach, that's what God designed me to do, to fight for our country,'" said Springman, who went fishing with Sitton just a few months ago.
In a strange twist, 10 News interviewed Sitton by phone just about a year ago. The subject was the death of his high school classmate and friend, Frank Gross. The U.S. Army Specialist also died in an Afghanistan bomb blast.
"I was honored to know him," Sitton said in that interview and now people are saying the same thing about Sitton.
The soldier's parents spent the day away from their Largo home to comfort Matt's wife Sara and their young son Brody. Grieving, they'll return home tonight to a new garden -- signs of love and new life.