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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A hometown hero was laid to rest today in the Port City.

This morning, hundreds of family, friends and supporters came out to pay their respects to Sgt. T.J. Butler.

Though his death was a shock to those who knew him, it was clear today that Sgt. Butler’s sacrifice not go unnoticed.

The crowd outside First Baptist Church in Wilmington was silent as a horse-draw caisson went by carrying Butler’s flag-draped casket.

“Never thought I would be burying one of my friends so young,” Butler’s friend Richard Nettell said.

The 25-year-old Army National Guardsman was laid to rest Friday with hundreds of friends, family and those who wanted to honor his sacrifice lining the walls inside the church.

A video was played, using pictures of Butler’s life, from Pop Warner football in his hometown of Hampstead to marrying his wife Holly to the birth of their son.

“(He was) always happy,” Nettell said. “Loved his wife, loved his son. He would do anything for anyone.”

Butler died during a suicide bomb attack October 1 in eastern Afghanistan. He’d been in the country for less than two weeks.

“Been over there for only 11 days. What happened over there was a shame,” Nettell said

Friends and family say Butler was a fierce competitor, someone who cared about others and always had a smile on his face.

“Big ol’ dimples on his face when he smiled. That’s what I’ll remember,” Nettell said.

Though he only lived 25 years, it was clear that his impact and sacrifice will live on forever.

Today Butler was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Combat Action Badge and a Meritorious Service Medal.

He was laid to rest in Wilmington National Cemetery.


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