At first shock, then understanding the risks he faced. A Salinas soldier’s family said losing a loved one at war is a delicate balance of both emotions. That Salinas family shared their memories of Chief Warrant Officer 43-year-old Edward Balli, the Army soldier killed on Monday in Afghanistan.
While his family is going through a very difficult time, they're choosing to remember him as a hero and using laughter to heal.
"Eddie never looked back at what he did, never complained to anyone, was always willing to go where his country had sent him and for us we want to remember him and will always remember him as our hero," said Balli’s uncle Tony Virrueta.
Virrueta said Balli was a hero who fought on the front lines on his fifth tour of duty. His nephew was shot and killed after insurgents attacked his camp. Virrueta said Balli had a dangerous job as a Calvary Scout and piloted unmanned drones.
"You've out in the front and you're also in small units. so he does have assets available to him. But at certain times you're vulnerable when you're not with a large group," Virrueta said.
Vulnerable overseas, but always strongly supported by his family at home in Salinas.
"He was a hero to everyone but himself. At no point did he boast of his career," Virrueta said.
Balli earned a Bronze Star last year. Virreuta said Balli was born and raised in Salinas, and graduated from North Salinas High School. He leaves behind a wife and three kids who are grown up.
When he joined the Army at 19-years-old, Balli followed a long line of family members who also served their country.
"He's always willing to give what he had and very patriotic. He comes from a lot of veterans in his family," Virrueta said.
While Balli's family members are taking time to grieve, they're also remembering his sense of humor.
"Eddie alive is a laughing loving, caring person and it's a laugh and a smile that we'll always remember and think about," Virrueta said.
Virrueta said immediate family members are heading to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive his body Wednesday night. Then he'll be given a hero's welcome back to the Central Coast in a few days.