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Originally published Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 8:28 PM

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Redmond Marine killed in Afghanistan

Friends and family described Lance Cpl. Eric L. Ward, a 19-year-old Marine from Redmond who died Sunday in Afghanistan, as a proud and generous man who kept everybody around him laughing. Lance Cpl. Ward died in a "hostile incident" in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Tuesday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Friends and family described Eric L. Ward, a 19-year-old Marine from Redmond who died Sunday in Afghanistan, as a proud and generous man who kept everybody around him laughing.

Lance Cpl. Ward died in a "hostile incident" in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Tuesday. A machine-gunner, he was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"He was always the person to make you laugh no matter what happened," said Trey Hoover, 19, a fellow Marine who was Ward's roommate in Afghanistan. "No matter what happened, where we were at, even if we were sleeping in the field getting a torrential downpour rained on us, he'd always make it funny."

Besides his humor, Lance Cpl. Ward was known for his athletic talent and unusual generosity, said his father, Steven Ward. Every year while he was a student at Snoqualmie Valley Public Schools, Eric Ward would buy extra sets of school supplies to give to those who were less fortunate.

A fourth-generation Marine, Lance Cpl. Ward had dreamed of joining the Corps from an early age, his father said.

"He was a natural leader," said Steven Ward, 48. "He was proud to serve. He was proud for his family. He was strong."

Eric Ward joined the Marines in July 2008. He deployed to Afghanistan in October and was promoted to the rank of lance corporal last month.

His awards include the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and NATO International Security Assistance Force Medal.

The exact cause of death has not been released. Ward's battalion reportedly has been participating in an intense offensive to retake the city of Marjah, in the southern province of Helmand, from Taliban control.

About 15,000 American and NATO troops, including soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, are participating in the offensive, which has been described as the largest operation in the eight-year war.

The operation has resulted in the deaths of many American soldiers, Taliban fighters and Afghan civilians. At least seven Marines in Lance Cpl. Ward's regiment alone have died since Feb. 1.

Lance Cpl. Ward's body arrived at Dover Air Force Base late Tuesday, said his father, who was on the tarmac when the plane landed. Because he died in combat, Lance Cpl. Ward will be buried at Arlington National Ceremony.

The family is planning services in Western Washington to celebrate Eric Ward's service, his father said.

On Tuesday, impromptu memorials were already under way. Students at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Lance Cpl. Ward's alma mater, mourned his death with messages on Facebook and Twitter and with a banner bearing the words "Thank you for your service."

"He was a loved kid," Steven Ward said.

Eric Ward will never be forgotten, said Hoover, who is just three days older than his former roommate.

"Some of the best times I've ever had were with him," Hoover said.

"There are really no words that can describe what kind of person he was."

Brian Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or brosenthal@seattletimes.com

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