by Tashun Chism
American flags and yellow ribbons cover the outside of the McCandless home. All signs of a family proud of the sacrifice made by 22-year-old Rodney McCandless. A soldier killed in combat while serving his country in Iraq on Easter Sunday.
"He was courageous. He was brave. He wasn't scared of anything. He wouldn't back down from a fight. He loved what he did. He did it for his country and he didn't mind," said his uncle, Joe McCandless.
"I just want god to bring him back to me. It's not fair. It's not fair," said his mother, Rhonda McCandless
Inside, family and friends rely on one another for support, and try to remember the good times they shared with Rodney.
"When he was just a year old, we dressed him up as a Cabbage Patch baby and he won first place in a Halloween contest. And I've always told him that all of his life, so that he's always known that he's my little Cabbage Patch baby," Rodney's mother fondly recalled.
"Growing up as we were kids, I'd ask my mother if I could go to a friend's house. She'd always tell me, 'Take Rodney with you!' So everyday, I've always had my little brother with me and from this day on, he'll still be with me," his older brother, James Sumner, told us.
"He had to be a role model for kids younger than him. He didn't do drugs and he didn't drink, he didn't smoke. Because if one of those kids saw him do it, and those kids were looking up to him, then he felt that he would be responsible for them doing that," his aunt, Sharla Parker, said.
Dealing with Rodney's death is hard for them, but his family and friends know he wouldn't want them to grieve for long.
"His message would be, "rock on!" He wanted everybody to just keep going pretty much. He wanted us all to keep going forward," said his Uncle Joe.