MONTICELLO — A week after a Green Beret from Utah was killed in action in Afghanistan, Aaron Butler's parents said he died doing what he wanted to do.
Randy and Laura Butler recalled their son, who joined the Utah National Guard as a senior at Monticello High, as headstrong, fearless and protective. They said he knew from the first grade he would be a soldier.
"Aaron lives on the edge. He always did and I knew he always would. But he walked that line to protect us," said Laura Butler. The staff sergeant's parents and his fiancée, Alex Seagroves, spoke to reporters from a golf course clubhouse in Monticello, where Butler was known as a champion wrestler.
Laura Butler said both parents and his seven siblings tried to talk him out of a military career.
"He told me that it didn't matter. He was going to do it no matter what," she said.
Butler deployed in April. He was clearing a booby-trapped building in Nangarhar Province with his unit Aug. 16 when a bomb went off, killing him and injuring 11 others.
His remains will return to Utah Thursday, his 28th birthday, with a motorcade leaving Monticello Airport at noon and traveling down Main Street in Monticello and Blanding. Butler's funeral will be Saturday.
Some people said the timing of his homecoming suggested he pulled strings, his mom said.
"Aaron doesn't pull string. He knocks heads," she quipped.
Alex Seagroves said she knew a softer side of the Special Forces soldier. Butler told her he was studying to go into insurance the night they met in North Carolina, but she called his bluff. They met up for brunch the following morning, she said, and they "basically shared our whole life stories the second day we met."
Butler proposed to her over FaceTime while he was in Afghanistan.
"From the back seat, he hollered, 'I want to serve my country!'"
After news of Butler's death reached the tight-knit community in the southeastern corner of the state, his parents said their home immediately was flooded with people. The "tremendous" support has helped them move forward, Randy Butler said.
Theirs isn't a military family, he said, but that didn't affect his son's determination. And he believes other families may share that same experience.
"If that's what their interest is and that's what they ultimately are really going to want to do, you probably aren't going to stop them anyway," Randy Butler said.
The Butlers said on Monday they believe their son would have supported President Donald Trump's plan to send more troops to the region, even if it required more sacrifices.
At Wednesday's news conference, Laura Butler said that while Aaron Butler was serving an LDS mission in Ghana eight years ago, the mission's senior couple was driving him around town. They came across some kind of problem, and asked Butler what he wanted to do.
"From the back seat, he hollered, 'I want to serve my country!'" Laura Butler said.
Along with deep-seated patriotism, he had a penchant for mischief. She once received a call from his school because he chased a mouse to its hole and was bitten in the process, she said.
The Butlers last saw their son as he and his unit were leaving Utah to travel to Texas before deployment in April. Laura Butler had promised chocolate chip cookies if they would stop by on the way. They did.
"I will be forever grateful to him for the sacrifice he made," she said.
Funeral service: Saturday at noon at the LDS Stake Center in Monticello. Prior to the service, a viewing is set from 9 to 11:30 a.m.
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