In the mechanics yard, Sgt. Joshua Strickland wielded a hammer he called “Thor” and lifted the spirits of his fellow soldiers with his Texas-size personality.
At home, Strickland lived for his wife and three children. He talked about them constantly and looked to be at peace when friends saw him in their company.
His friends and commanders from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 1st Special Forces Group shared those stories Thursday as they gathered to mourn the 23-year-old soldier who was shot to death with two Green Berets in Afghanistan on Sept. 21.
Strickland was known as a steady hand as a mechanic supporting Lewis-McChord’s Green Berets since late 2008. He joined the 1st Group shortly after he enlisted and completed his initial Army training.
“He was a motivator,” said Col. Max Carpenter, the 1st Group’s deputy commander. Strickland had a “positive attitude and it was infectious.”
NATO reported that Strickland was killed in an insider attack carried out by an Afghan wearing the uniform of the country’s official security forces in Paktia province. The shooter also killed Staff Sgt. Liam Nevins, 32, and Staff Sgt. Timothy McGill, 30, of the National Guard’s 19th Special Forces Group from outside Washington state.
Strickland was serving on his first overseas deployment and was supporting a Special Forces detachment in eastern Afghanistan. He volunteered for the assignment, his commanders said, and showed an attitude that helped his fellow soldiers cope.
“As we all know, everything in Afghanistan is harsh,” said his company commander, Capt. Angel Caraballo. “The terrain is harsh. The enemy is harsh. Jay’s positive attitude and continuous humor eased the burdens of those around him.”
Back home, Strickland showed a boisterous personality. He insisted they call his hammer “Thor” if they wanted to borrow it, and he’d talk about his home state of Texas as the “promised land.”
He took pride in keeping up a seemingly ancient Ford pickup truck that his friends considered to be in no condition to drive. He’d offer to buy lunch for coworkers, but they’d accept only if he’d let them drive their vehicles because they did not want to break down in his, laughed Spc. Amanda Lopez, a close friend from the support battalion.
“The motor pool for a lot of us will never be the same without him there,” she said.
Strickland is survived by his wife, Heather, and their children, Landon, Maddison and Victoria. He hailed from Georgia and Texas.
Many civilian friends and relatives attended the Lewis-McChord ceremony, each caressing his dog tags at the front of the Army chapel.