HASLET –– Sendera Ranch is the kind of neighborhood where fathers teach little boys how to ride bikes on the sidewalk.
It's where fathers like Jim Funk raise their sons to be soldiers. Funk described the moment when Department of Defense officials arrived at his Haslet home to deliver the news of his stepson's death this week.
"Just like you see in the movie, a car pulled up with two dress uniform Army officials and walked to the door and you just know. And your heart sinks." Funk said.
Twenty-three-year old Army Sgt. Jay Strickland was just three weeks away from the end of his first full deployment in Afghanistan. He was shot along with two other U.S. soldiers, leaving behind a wife and three children in Seattle. The Funks were told Strickland was training Afghan soldiers at a gun range Saturday when one of the trainees opened fire.
Strickland lived in Fort Worth for several years, not far from his parents in Haslet. It's the sort of city where neighbors reward the ultimate sacrifice with genuine sympathy and unbridled patriotism. It's where the news of Sgt. Strickland's death meant every street, every fence, and every mailbox was marked in his honor with a flag or a ribbon.
B.J. Cox is a family friend. He said once the word got out on Facebook people organized a response quickly.
"To put up flags or to be there for a family while they're crying, to just be there for the family if we could do that," Cox said. "We're here to do that."
With bright blue eyes matched only by a brighter smile, Sgt. Strickland's father says the tough exterior of soldier guarded a soft heart. He often thought of becoming an Army chaplain.
"Even in the Army where you have harsh people," Funk said. "He never lost that. He was still a fun loving, happy kid with a heart of love and kindness and he'll be missed by everybody that he touched."
Soon the flags and the ribbons will be gone and it will all sink in.
"You know when it gets quiet and all those feelings come back. You know sleep is going to be hard for awhile. This is our new normal."
Sendera Ranch will still be the kind of place where fathers give lessons on the sidewalk and raise sons to be soldiers.