DUNN, N.C. (WNCN) – One of the nine Army soldiers killed in flood waters in Texas was from Dunn, North Carolina and her parents say they are learning more and more from the community about how much of an impact their daughter had.
All day Saturday, the phone and doorbell rang from family and friends wanting to tell Marlene and Quincy Strongs how much they will miss their daughter, Laurin Gates.
“That was a jewel that God gave us for 20 years,” said her father, Quincy Strongs.
“I actually had an angel living with us,” said Marlene Strongs, Laurin’s mom.
Her mom said she was loved by all of Triton High School; queen of the military ball for four years, and even homecoming queen her senior year. Strongs said she always wanted to give back to everyone.
Laurin was home just last weekend for Memorial Day, but instead of relaxing with family she raced off to school to be with the JROTC.
“As far as being in the Army, it was her lifelong dream. It was all she wanted to do,” said Marlene.
Her mom said Laurin specifically went to see her JROTC instructor Maj. Steven Jones.
“You are my hero. You are an amazing person.” Jones said those are the last words Laurin wrote him in 2013 before she graduated. Jones keeps them a book he had with him Saturday.
For the 20 years Jones has been a JROTC instructor he says students come and go, but Laurin will be more than that to him, she was more like family.
“When people pass, you want to say good things, but this little sister was like an angel,” said Jones.
Laurin told Jones he was a hero to her, but Jones said she was the same for him.
“She is one that helped me on my journey,” he said.
The Strongs said it’s because of these stories from people like Jones and her faith that she is finding peace.
“The final destination is heaven and because I’ve known Laurin, because I know who she is, she reached it,” said Marlene.
The Strongs said they are planning a ceremony for their daughter Monday at 8 p.m. at Tart Park in Dunn.