For those who knew him, Dillon Baldridge lived and died a hero.
Looking back, even his grandmother says Baldridge always had an interest in serving others.
“I don’t know why he was so interested in the military,” grandmother Terri Baldridge, of Lucasville, explained. “As a kid, he preferred reading over TV. He liked reading a lot of history stuff. He used to watch the history channel and the military channel. His papaw was in the service, so he use to give him his laundry bag and little items like that. Dillon just thought that was the coolest thing ever.”
As an elementary school child, Dillon Baldridge loved the Wheelersburg Flea Market. However, he wasn’t interested in cars or other typical children’s toys. He wanted the book of military pictures with a mildew like residue grazing the outside cover.
Dillon later fulfilled his dream of joining the military by joining the Army in early 2013, shortly after graduating high school. His career was successful, climbing the ranks to sergeant, squad leader and assigned to headquarters. The young military man was preparing for Ranger School when he learned that his company was being deployed to Afghanistan. He turned down Ranger School to go with his fellow soldiers.
As a man, Dillon’s military image shaped his ultimate character. He met a lady from New Zealand, Penny Gordon, while he was in Hawaii. Gordon realized what kind of person Dillon was while they were on their first date. After dinner, the couple had so much left over food, Dillon boxed up the remains and fed a homeless woman outside the restaurant.
“That’s when I realized he was kind hearted and caring,” Gordon said. “He was a true gentleman and wanted to bring this whole idea back to the modern world. He wanted to be a modern-day gentleman, someone who would open doors for women and pay for their meals, and treat them with respect, but also give them independence and freedom. He achieved this without a doubt in my eyes.”
Dillon was always in service of other no matter who they were or where they were in life. His life, however, would be cut short. In the D Company, 187th infantry regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Dillon was involved in patrols and even in the training of Afghan soldiers.
Then, that fateful call occurred June 10. Estell Baldridge had just read about three soldiers being killed in Afghanistan before the phone rang. The grandparents heard the hollow words from their son, Chris Baldridge — Dillon’s father.
“To lose our grandson in this act of betrayal and cowardice with a chance to fight is what makes this even harder,” Estell and Terri Baldridge said in a written statement. “… We are so proud of him. He sacrificed so much.”
The Associated Press reported that an Afghan soldier fired on the U.S soldiers. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying one of its fighters had infiltrated an Afghan army.
“The military lost a leader because he would’ve done something, if we would have ever gotten him off of the front lines,” Terri Baldridge said. “He wanted to be with his buddies. He wanted to be with them and he wanted to fight with them. But actually, he had the ability to be a leader.
“It’s just so frustrating to learn how he was taken like that, not given the opportunity to fight. I never worried about him because he was smart. He was good with that weapon.”
Dillon was taken from his family just before an expected return home. When he and family last spoke, he was planning to return to Ohio in August.
He was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge and Army Commendation Medal with One Leaf Cluster.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1927, or on Twitter @crslone.