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Service to honor war casualty

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

The community will have the opportunity to honor, thank and say goodbye to hometown hero and decorated Marine Aaron Torian during a service next week.

A celebration of life memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at Heartland Worship Center on Alben Barkley Drive, according to Torian's mother Esta Smith. She encouraged anyone in the community who knew him or any other family member or just want to pay their respects to attend. Smith emphasized that the time should be spent rejoicing in his life and the many people whom he affected.

"What he was doing was for everyone," she said. "Aaron's life was meaningful to people he didn't even realize that he was touching."

Torian, 36, a master sergeant, died Feb. 15 from injuries received during combat training operations while serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife, Jurley, and their three children, Elijah, 9, Laura Bella, 4, and Avery, 2.

"He was passionate about his Marine career but he was also a great son, wonderful dad, husband and brother," she said.

Torian grew up in the local area before his family moved to Maryland. After graduating from Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf, Md., he earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin and a master's degree at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tenn. He enlisted following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

In 2005, as a corporal, Torian was named the Second Marine Division's Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year for service during Operation Phantom Fury, in Fallujah, Iraq. He also received a Purple Heart, the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, among other accolades.

He ascended quickly through the ranks, reaching nearly the highest distinction for a noncommissioned officer in just a decade of service. Smith said Torian excelled in the Marine Corps because serving one's nation, community and family were at the top of his priority list.

Funeral services for Torian were held Feb. 26 with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Smith called the ceremony difficult but at the same time peaceful due to the professional discipline and respect of the service-driven presentation.

"As you stand on that hallowed ground you think about so many that made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation," she said.

"Every minute, men and woman are making the same sacrifice that Aaron did."

Gov. Steve Beshear directed flags at all state office buildings to be lowered to half staff on Feb. 26 in honor of Torian. City and county leaders lowered local flags.

"On behalf of his family and friends, we are so gracious for the outpouring of support, love and comfort from the community during this time," Smith said. "We are thankful for the community and honored in so many ways."

Local resident Gladman Humbles spoke during recent city and county commission meetings asking the courts to consider joining with the family to create a permanent remembrance or monument to Torian's service. Judge-Executive Van Newberry said Torian would be honored during this year's Memorial Day celebrations.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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