HAMPSTEAD, NC (WWAY) -- Christmas is a time to celebrate and count your blessings, but this holiday season has been especially tough for the Butler family. Army Sgt. T.J. Butler was killed in action in October by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Now, his family is trying to figure out how to celebrate Christmas while remembering their own angel.
"He was a very kind hearted person, even as a child," said Butler's mom, Leslie Butler. "As he grew into a man, the things that he did for other people were different than what he did as a child. As his mom and dad, we didn't quite know as much as he did until he was gone."
Butler says her son was just as kind as he was brave. She says her family has been struggling each day since they found out T.J. would not be returning home from his tour in Afghanistan.
"We are very empty without T.J., very empty," said Butler. "T.J. has a younger brother. He's devastated. T.J.'s dad is devastated. His wife is devastated and little Thomas, I can't imagine growing up without a dad so it's going to be hard."
Butler says the holidays are especially tough for the family but the community continues to offer support. She says it's easy to forget the sacrifices of those protecting our country, but she thinks the Wilmington and Hampstead communities hold the armed forces a little closer to their hearts now because of T.J.
"It's not brought up in everybody's every day life but I believe when it's someone so close that they'll never be the same," said Butler. "They'll never not pay attention to the war anymore."
Butler says she will always remember T.J. as a crab-loving, card-playing, kind-hearted son, husband and father. She knows nothing will bring him back or make things easier but she says she will keep working to make sure her son is never forgotten.
"We love TJ," she said. "We miss T.J. every day and we'll never be the same."