The Porterville man is one of six soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He's been identified as A.J. Pardo. His armored vehicle struck a bomb in the Wardak Province over the weekend.
/*A.J. Pardo*/ joined the army right after he graduated from Granite Hills High School. His sendoff was a moment that Elizabeth Brown will never forget. She said, "It was really sad, there were people crying.. All of us friends from the church it was emotional for everybody."
While a few years younger, Elizabeth says it was her church youth ministry that forged a bond between she and A.J. She said, "He was really protective sort of like a big brother to me."
Even while he was overseas, they would text, Facebook, and talk. In fact, Elizabeth found out what happened to the man she considers a mentor through the popular social media site.
Pardo was one of six Fort Bliss soldiers killed in a roadside blast. It happened when their armored vehicle struck a bomb in eastern Afghanistan.
Brown, "I'm in shock still it hasn't really hit me I know we'll miss him more than we miss him now we're in shock right now."
Parks and Recreation employees lowered the flags to half-staff, and a prayer vigil is planned for Tuesday evening.
For Elizabeth, who was looking forward to his celebratory homecoming, it's now a homecoming of a different sort.
"The hardest part for me is knowing I won't see him again when he comes home," Brown said. "There won't be an I'm coming back to Porterville or a welcoming home party."
Tuesday evening, several dozen people gathered for a prayer vigil at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Porterville.
His godfather, Maurice Tenorio, described Pardo as a loving person and man of faith. "From not coming from any kind of faith formation or tradition, I think it was inspiring to see his enthusiasm and living out his faith to the fullest," said Tenorio.
Classmates from Granite Hills also attended the service. They described him as a shy teen who was well liked and respected. "Finding out that he had passed was really hard. You don't think about it... and even if you haven't spoken to someone in a while, it brought me to tears. I've been crying all day. He made an impact and serving our country was a big honor for us and we're proud of him," said classmate Morgen Wells.
Action News spoke to Pardo's mother by phone. She said the death has left her numb. She said Pardo joined the military to fulfill his dream of one day becoming a chef. He wanted to move to Chicago, home of his beloved Cubs.