The Pentagon says 30-year-old Sergeant 1st Class Ronald "Aaron" Grider died after being hit by machine gun fire September 18 during a combat operation in Konduz Province, Afghanistan. He leaves behind a wife and young daughter.
His is a story of unbelievable courage, bravery, and dedication. It was his ninth military deployment overseas. He went seven times to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.
Friends say he was always happy and always smiling. He was a spiritual family man, an outdoorsman, and a music lover.
"He had a great smile. Even if you were in a bad mood, he would be one person who could put you in an excellent mood," said former classmate Shanna Combes.
Grider grew up in Brighton, Illinois and graduated from Civic Memorial High School. Friends and former teachers say he was always putting other people first.
"Just a fun kid to be around, fun in class. He'd run by and give you a hug for no reason and then take off running," offered former science teacher and track coach Frank Grasier.
Just months after graduation, Grider enlisted in the Army as an infantryman. It was clear he wanted to be a soldier.
He was soon assigned to Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg.
Three years later, he attended 82nd Airborne Division Pre-Ranger Course, subsequently attending and graduating from Ranger School in May 2000.
SFC. Grider was assigned as a scout team leader in March 2002 to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and served in this capacity for seven months before being reassigned to Fort Benning, Georgia.
In October 2002, SFC. Grider was assigned as a rifle team leader to Co. A, 1st Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment, transitioning to squad leader in October 2004. While assigned to Alpha Company, SFC. Grider deployed once to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom and three times to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
SFC. Grider was assigned in November 2005 as a special operations team member, United States Army Special Operations Command (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C. For five years he performed this duty, deploying four times to Operation Iraqi Freedom and once more to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
His honors include three Bronze Star Medals and a Purple Heart.
"Aaron was such a fine young man it really makes it tough. It's going to be a great loss for this community, the country and especially for his friends and family," offered former wrestling coach Steve Bradley.
Grider's body arrived at Dover Air Force Base Monday. His final resting place is not yet known.
Grider is survived by his wife, Brittany Grider of Carthage, N.C., daughter Catie-Anne of Raleigh, N.C., and his parents Ron Grider of Brighton, Ill. and Rita Grider of St. Louis, Ill.