Mid-Michigan Army Sergeant killed in Afghanistan - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Mid-Michigan Army Sergeant killed in Afghanistan

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FLINT (WJRT) -

(06/18/12) - For Martha Hicks-Alexander, the emotional pain is still fresh.

"It was like a nightmare, you know. And it still doesn't feel real," she said.

Last week, she learned her nephew Army Sergeant Joseph Lilly had been injured in combat. Two days later, the 25-year-old died from his injuries.

"He'll always be our hero. He always was and always will," Hicks-Alexander said.

Lilly graduated from Carman Ainsworth High School in 2005 and joined the Army right away.

That didn't surprise his aunt. His father, uncle and two grandfathers had also served in the military.

"For his love of family and his country. And he wanted to keep us all safe," she said.

And that's just what Sgt. Lilly was doing when he was hurt in Afghanistan.

He was a combat engineer, trained to go ahead of other troops and look for explosives.

Martha says it wasn't a bomb, but something else that gave her a scare less than a month ago.

"A sniper caught him right in the chin. And it was just a stitch here and a stitch here," she said.

Around that same time, Lilly sent a bouquet of flowers to his aunt on Mother's Day. The petals are now part of a vase full of potpourri.

His aunt played a special role in his life, after his mother died more than a decade ago.

"Telling me that he knew I wasn't his mother, but I had done a damn fine job of raising him and thank you. And that he loved me very much," Hicks-Alexander said.

The petals became a last gift from a loving nephew.

Sgt. Lilly leaves behind his family in Mid-Michigan, and a wife and 3-year-old son who live in Washington state.

He will be buried at the Great Lakes National Cemetery.

"He did qualify to go to Arlington. He told his wife if anything happened, he didn't make it back, that he wanted to come home," Hicks-Alexander said.

Lilly's body was flown back to the U.S. this weekend.

His family is still waiting to find out when he will be returned to Mid-Michigan for burial.

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