Army Staff Sergeant Steven Blass left his hometown of Estherville on a snowy day on March 13th, 2006 to begin his military career.
This March 13th, he returned to US soil a fallen hero after a helicopter crash in Kandahar City, Afghanistan last Monday.
Blass, who served out of Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, GA was one of five soldiers who died.
KTIV's Jacqueline Quynh sat down with Blass’s family and friends as they remember the many knew as "Spud."
"Steve left Estherville, left his home to go to basic training, he was so proud and so anxious and so ready. The army is just where he wanted to be, that was his dream," recalls aunt, Karen Stoller.
A small town boy became a hero in the eyes of the community.
"He just always wanted to fly helicopters," Stoller added.
Blass grew up in Estherville. He went to Estherville High School, played football for a few years, but had many hobbies that included marine activities. He spent time working on the family farm, and working at a local retail shop; all before he would realize his childhood dream of going into the service.
"He was just so set to go into the army, and he was always a patriotic kid as well. He loved America, he loved fighting for freedom. His grandfather had been in the army," Stoller said.
Though determined and confident about what he wanted to do in life. Blass had a very strong relationship with his family and close friends, even when he was thousands of miles away.
"He was very focused and always letting us know how much our support meant to him, and how much he loved us," Stoller said.
Longtime friend, Annie Christensen remembers the good times, "Just hilarious if you were having the worst day ever, he would make you laugh."
For nearly 7 years, Blass' family kept that bond close. Then the news that every family with members in the service feared came.
"I read breaking news that there had just been a Blackhawk helicopter crash in Afghanistan right out of Kandahar City, and my heart sank," Stoller said.
"I was shocked. When you get that kind of news, it's the thing that happens in movies, and it happens on TV, but it's not supposed to happen to you," Lyndsi Logan said.
But they say he died, doing what he loved, “He was living his dream, not only with the army, but with his wife, and his young son," Stoller said.
Family and friends say they miss and are still grieving for the loss of Steven Blass, but say, his legacy of kindness, and sharing will be part of the legacy that he leaves behind.
"He’ll forever live on in our hearts and we loved him and we are very proud of him," Stoller said.
Blass's funeral is expected to take place within the next two weeks. A fund will be set up for his son, Hayden at Northwest Bank.