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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Rhode Island soldier is being remembered as a hero after he died in Afghanistan sacrificing his own life for a little girl.
National Guardsman Spc. Dennis Weichel, Junior surprised his children with an unexpected visit home three months ago; last week, while serving in Afghanistan, the 29-year-old died while saving the life of a young girl.
"I can't believe that happened to him. It's really just devastating," said Richard Mendez, who has a business attached to the apartment building where Weichel lived with his girlfriend and baby daughter.
On Thursday, flags were at half staff over the Rhode Island capitol to remember a service man and honor his ultimate sacrifice.
Weichel was also honored on the floor of the US Senate.
The military says Weichel got down from his armored vehicle to help move a group of children out of the way of his company's convoy.
Weichel spotted a young girl trying to retrieve something from under the vehicle. He moved her out of the way but then was struck himself.
Both Weichel's girlfriend and mother said the military will fly them and other family members Saturday to greet his body when it arrives back on U.S. soil.