'His smile put you at ease'
Family members and friends received the worst news they could Saturday when a military representative told Keith and MerryLee Linden their son, Troy, had been killed in Iraq.
The Detroit Lakes couple's son was the first from the area to be killed in Iraq. Army Spec. Troy Linden, 22, died when a roadside bomb exploded near the vehicle he was driving. He died in Anbar, a province in Iraq.
Despite the sorrow that follows such news, the pride and love of a family was close behind.
"He was very proud to be there (Iraq). Proud to be in the army, to be there and of his job. He took his military very seriously," said his aunt, Krista Korth.
Troy was very protective of his family, especially of his mother, Korth said. He would tell her he was the third in the convoy, rather than telling her of his danger of having to rotate and be first in line at times.
"She (his mother) kind of always knew he wouldn't come back," Korth said.
A 2002 graduate of Detroit Lakes High School, Troy joined the army while visiting his sister, Sarah Nelson, in Montana.
Korth said her nephew joined the army in Billings in 2003. He was stationed in Germany, and deployed to Iraq last fall.
He came home to Detroit Lakes in April this year for a two-week break.
He was scheduled to leave Iraq the end of October or November. He had to return to Germany for three months and then was scheduled to return home in February.
Korth said Troy was very open with his love for his family. He would Message family of all ages on the computer while in Iraq.
"Troy could be very shy when you first met him, but it didn't take long," she said. "His smile put you at ease."
Tina Voorhees, a 2005 DLHS graduate, also loved Troy's smile and sense of humor. They spent time together in musicals and the choir program at the high school.
"He was just hilarious, just the nicest guy you'd ever meet," she said. "I was in the madrigal (dinner) with him when I was in ninth grade, and he was Mini-Me -- he was so funny... He was the best part of the whole thing."
Korth said Troy enjoyed mud running, had a bought a Jeep during his leave in April, and has a dog at his parents' house waiting for him to return.
"He was country. He loved everything about the country," she said. "It's very important to everyone that people know he was a Minnesota boy."
Even though he signed up for the army in Montana, he was pure Minnesotan.
"(Montana) was never home, just a visit," she said.
Detroit Lakes Mayor Larry Buboltz said flags will be flown at half-staff through the time of Troy's memorial. The city council observed a minute of silence in his honor Tuesday.
"He was more than a student because he and my children were good friends," Kathy Larson said.
Larson directed Troy and his brother, Ryan, in musicals at the school.
Troy was involved in "Singin' in the Rain," "Good News," and "Dracula." He was also a part of the Minnesota All-State Lutheran Choir.
"What was so special, Troy and Ryan got to share a lot of these experiences together," Larson said.
"He was a wonderful young man. Always a ready smile, even-tempered," she added.
Larson has known Troy not only as a student but also as a family friend. He attended Washington Elementary with her two children, Chelsea and Blake, and had been friends throughout the years.
"He was one of the most loyal friends you could ever have," she said.
Family and friends alike will miss Troy -- an easy-going guy who loved his family.
Simply put, "he was really a great guy," Voorhees said.
(Staff Intern Sophie Vogt contributed to this story.)