Dillon Christopher Baldridge was born July 18, 1994, in Youngsville, N.C. From an early age, he told his family he wanted to be a soldier. What he became was a hero.

Baldridge died June 10, 2017, of gunshot wounds sustained in Afghanistan while supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. The funeral in Ashe County and burial held at Ashelawn on June 23 of that year were among the most-attended in High Country history.

On Saturday, a memorial ride and wreath-laying in Baldridge’s honor were similarly populated by both riders and those who lined the streets in solemnity for the ultimate sacrifice made by a young soldier.

In 2017, a week after what would have been his 23rd birthday, we offered our words in this space to also honor his sacrifice. That editorial is reprinted below.

A large group — a very large group, befitting the ceremony — gathered at Ashe County High School a little more than four weeks ago for a solemn occasion: the funeral of U.S. Army Sgt. Dillion Christopher Baldridge. The Ashe County hero was laid to rest after suffering gunshot wounds in Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel on June 10.

On July 19, Baldridge would have turned 23 years old, and that occasion, too, was supported by a group of those choosing to remember and honor the fallen soldier. Family members and High Country Blue Star Mothers joined to honor Baldridge’s birthday by laying a wreath on his grave at Ashelawn Memorial Chapel, Gardens and Mausoleum.

Although the group at Baldridge’s birthday remembrance may have been the significantly smaller gathering of the two occasions, it was just as important. Not because there was any special significance to what would have been the warrior’s 23rd year. The special significance is that the event occurred.

The laying of that wreath was more than an act of honor. It was a reminder, and one that should prompt all of us to remember those we have buried because they exchanged life for freedom. Their lives for our freedoms.

Such sacrifice deserves recognition beyond a holiday or a funeral ceremony. It is something all of us are touched by every day of our lives.

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