TURLOCK, CA - An Empire family is arriving back in the Valley Wednesday, escorting the body of their son, a soldier who lost his life serving in Afghanistan.
Specialist Benjamin Pleitez died Friday in Northern Afghanistan.
Pleitez, who lived in Turlock, was a medic with the 764th Combat Support Battalion, serving in a transportation company.
He had joined the National Guard in 2005 and his best friend said he had found his life's calling as an expert medic who loved all things medical and worked to keep fellow soldiers safe and healthy.
"It's like he loved what he did," childhood best friend Gabe Velez said.
"You could tell when he talked about it, in his voice. He was there for his brothers over there and just willing to do anything."
The Department of Defense has not yet released any information on how Pleitez died except that it was in Mazar-e-Sharif, which is a strategic town with an important NATO airfield in far northern Afghanistan.
Velez said Pleitez talked about the bond he forged with fellow soldiers.
"You just go through so much together they become like your best friends," Velez said. "They become an extension of you, like they're your best friends, you feel like you've known them your entire life."
Velez said his best friend accepted what he'd come to love.
"He would want to have been doing what he loved," Velez said.