Family, Friends Remember Local Soldier Killed in Afghanistan | People

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Family, Friends Remember Local Soldier Killed in Afghanistan
People
Family, Friends Remember Local Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The family of Gil "Isai" Morales Del Valle, a local soldier killed in Afghanistan Wednesday, welcomed us into their home during this extremely difficult time to honor the memory of the brave soldier. His family and stepfather, Renes Perez, want you to know the man behind the uniform.

He told us Isai walked into his life when he was just 4 years old and gave him more than he could've asked for - he gave him a son.

Perez and Isai's mother married in Puerto Rico. The family moved to Jacksonville when Isai was 8 years old. The mother and father sat down with us and shared his memories, showing us photos and scrapbooks made by Isai as he was growing up.

His mother showed us the card from the last gift he sent her - a big box of chocolates for her birthday.

"He was a really happy guy, always motivating everyone to do their best and just enjoy life and be happy for what you have," Isai's girlfriend and longtime friend Narin Alim said.

Loved ones also said he was quite the ladies' man, until he and Narin started dating.

"He was always there for me, I was there for him through everything from boot camp all the way to the end," she said.

The two met at Crossroads private school about 6 years ago.  

"And he always hung out with all the girls, he liked the girls. He was just, everybody loved him."

One friend at the home described the way Isai hugged - that he would grip you so hard and not let go. He didn't need to tell you he loved you with words, she said. You could feel it.  

"He was a really good kid, respectful all the time... Time started going by and we got closer and closer," Narin shared.

Narin and Isai's last conversation was on Skype. She was about to go to sleep when he was starting his day in Afghanistan.  

"The last thing he said was goodnight, I love you and I care about you. And I was like me too and I went to sleep. And then about 3 in the morning, he logged off and wrote me on Facebook: 'thank you so much for talking to be babe.' Exclamation point. Happy face. 'I love you.'"

Hours later, she got the news of his death - just 75 days before he was to return home.  

"I don't know what to feel, everything is mixed up," Narin said. "I just want to be here with them at his house. I just wish he was here."

Narin and Isai's family take comfort knowing he died a hero - their superhero - something Isai always said he wanted to be growing up.  

"I know he's with God. I have faith he is."

When Isai's stepfather told him he was praying for him in Afghanistan, he told us Isai responded, 'dad, that's great, but don't just pray for me - pray for every soldier that's over here, that they come home safely.'

Isai's family will be burying him in Puerto Rico. When they return, they'll be holding a memorial service for him, and as soon as we get the details of that we will be sure to pass it along to you.

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