CLINTON, SC (WIS) - It's a solemn start to Christmas weekend for loved ones of a marine killed in Afghanistan.
Lance Corporal William Crouse IV died in a bomb attack Tuesday, and in Laurens County, he's being remembered as a friend and a hero.
Yellow ribbons line poles and markers in the small town of Clinton. A flag at the town's center is at half-staff. It's all being done to remember a young soldier killed in the line of duty.
"We're all devastated. It's just devastating," says Gail Gregory. She and her son Jonathan knew the 22-year-old well. He lived with them during his senior year at Clinton High School. They called him "Billy".
"Not getting to see him again, that's the hardest part," expresses Jonathan.
Crouse joined the Marines right after his 2007 high school graduation. He moved to South Carolina during his sophomore year with his father, who preceded him in death.
Crouse started as a fullback for the Red Devils. "He was so young, and he was just so full of life and so loving...so caring and compassionate," says Gail.
Lance Corporal Crouse had only been in Afghanistan six weeks before he and his bomb-sniffing dog, Cane, were killed in an explosion Tuesday. His mother spoke to WIS by phone Thursday from Crouse's hometown in Indiana. "He chose the Marine Corps because in his heart it was the best of the best," Nancy Siders shares.
He gave the ultimate sacrifice. "He touched more lives than I think my son realized he did," says Siders.
Now hundreds if not thousands, maybe even millions, remember a fallen hero.
Jonathan and Crouse were on the football team together, and thinking of life without his friend has been difficult for Jonathan. "He was just a great guy, and I'm glad to know him, have known him as a friend," says Jonathan.
"Bill was the type of young man that if you were his friend, you were always his friend," says Siders, "He had your back, no matter what."
"He was a hero," says Gail, "He was our hero before he even went into the Marines."
The young man known as a hero and friend to everyone he met will never be forgotten by the ones who love him. "He's making a huge impact across the nation, and he was only 22 years old, and if he can do it, everybody can do it," says Siders.
Now his memory lives on. "He was in Leatherneck, and he was able to make a couple phone calls to us," states Siders, "And that was probably, oh wow, I'm gonna say over a month ago, and I cannot tell you how much I wish I had a couple of those minutes back."
Crouse and his dog were trained in Hartsville. It's a place where hundreds of other Marines have trained, but he is the first of those Marines to die.
Funeral arrangements have not been set, but Crouse will be buried in Indiana. His friends are planning also planning a memorial in Clinton.