Fort Mill mom among the grieving
CHARLOTTE -- Family, friends and comrades bid goodbye Friday to Cpl. Joshua Blaney, who died in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan exactly three years after a similar explosion failed to kill him in Iraq.
The 25-year-old Army paratrooper from Matthews, N.C., whose mother lives in Fort Mill, was in the lead convoy truck when the bomb detonated, killing him and Staff Sgt. Michael Gabel, 30, of Crowley, La.
Before hundreds at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in east Charlotte, Blaney's best friend since childhood, Joshua Edwards, recalled how they went door to door recruiting friends for backyard football games. Eventually, a rule was instituted -- No "Josh and Josh" on the same team.
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Josh and Josh would go on to attend Butler High School together, they would both serve in the military -- and ultimately, one would be a pallbearer to the other.
After graduating in 2002, Blaney enlisted and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade. He was based at Camp Ederle in Italy. He began his first tour of duty on March 26, 2003, with a combat jump into northern Iraq. Later that year, a roadside bomb sent shrapnel into his leg, and he was awarded the Purple Heart.
In February 2005, he began the first of two tours of Afghanistan. He had recently re-enlisted for two more years.
Surviving Blaney are his mother, Dianne Massey of Fort Mill; father, Charles Blaney; brother Eddie Allen; sister Carley Blaney; stepsister, Angie Massey; and stepbrother, Todd Massey.
Friend and fellow soldier Robert Duetsch said the most important thing a soldier can do is look out for his buddies.
"That's all that matters -- bringing your boys home," Duetsch said. "Well, Josh, you did good. You continued to sacrifice so that you could bring your boys home."