24-year-old Joshua Birchfield, a Westville Marine who died by gunfire in Afghanistan on Feb. 19, is being mourned and honored by family and community.
Birchfield was on his first deployment to Afghanistan. He’d been a Marine for roughly two years.
Family say he loved sports, especially baseball. Joshua’s parents say when he went after something he did so with passion.
Sometimes, they say, he showed his temper. Other times, he showed his love – especially for his sisters.
"Very over-protective of his sisters, he wasn't gonna let anybody bother his sisters at all,” said Shelley Hacker, Joshua’s mother.
Not only did he love his sisters, Joshua loved his grandfather, a former Marine.
"My father instilled a lot in Josh about the Marine Corps, and I am proud to have a son that's a United States Marine," said Josh’s father Bruce Birchfield, holding back tears.
Last Friday, news about their son arrived.
"Josh always said, ‘mom, you never need to worry, unless you see an SUV and a county cop in your driveway, that's the only time you ever need to worry about me,’” said Shelley Hacker. “And that's what I seen, and I knew. I just collapsed," she said.
One week ago, on Thursday, Shelley spoke to her son for the last time. The next day, he would be killed by gunfire in Afghanistan.
"I'll never forget that last phone call, he's like mom, is my uncle Bubba proud of me, and I said Josh, everybody's proud of you,” said Shelley, her eyes wet with tears. “He said that's all that matters -- I want people proud of me, and they were, people were very proud of Joshua.”
On Wednesday, Birchfield’s body was brought back to Westville. A huge crowd lined the streets for the Westville High School graduate. Family members say they’re grateful for the community support.
Birchfield's visitation is Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Newhard Funeral Home in Westville.
The funeral will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Westville High School.