MARSHALL COUNTY, OK-- It's been a difficult time during the past three years for Marshall County. Three soldiers have died while serving their country. The county senses the void once again as another hometown hero, 27-year-old Second Lieutenant Joe Lee Cunningham lost his life in Afghanistan over the weekend.
Those who knew Cunningham say besides being a well-known and loved member of the community, he was an ambitious young man who strived to achieve any goal he set for himself.
One of the goals he was most proud of was becoming a second lieutenant in the Army. Marshall County Undersheriff Donny Raley says Cunningham was truly one of a kind.
"He was just a great kid, a great ambitious kid he knew where he wanted to go and knew what he was going to have to do to get there," Raley said.
Cunningham was a 2003 graduate of Kingston High School, joined the National Guard, then came to work as a detention officer for Marshall County only a few years ago before rejoining the military.
Kingston Police Chief John Canoe says he knew Cunningham since he was a young boy. Canoe says Cunningham volunteered at the Kingston Police Department helping out where he could. Canoe says they made an exception for Cunningham allowing him to go on patrol with police because they knew he wanted to be an officer, and was someone who would go above and beyond for others.
"I was heartbroken to hear about him and his death you know? Joe knew that there was times he might not come back, you know, he knew that," Canoe said.
Raley describes Cunningham as someone who was full of enthusiasm, and a person who enjoyed what he did, fighting to better the lives of others.
"That was his goal, that's why he joined the military. He just really enjoyed helping people, and being a part of and making a difference in their lives," Raley said.