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Family of 20-year-old Guardsman says he died doing what he loves

Jesse Orgaard talks Thursday about the death of his son, North Dakota National Guard Spc. Tyler J. Orgaard, 20, as the family, Tyler's mom, Josie, and older sister Kristy, right, talked with the media in Bismarck. Associated Press photo

BISMARCK - The father of slain North Dakota Guardsmen Spc. Tyler J. Orgaard said his son died doing what he loved and what he dreamed of.

Jesse Orgaard said his son would tell his family not to cry for him but rather have a beer in his honor. The family planned to honor that wish.

Speaking to media Thursday morning with his wife, Josie, and 23-year-old daughter, Kristy, Orgaard could not stress enough how much his 20-year-old son, known for his leadership and desire to help others, loved being a part of the military.

"(Tyler) lived more in 20 years than a lot of people live in 80 years," Orgaard said, his voice choking up. "He did what he had wanted to do."

The accomplished martial arts fighter and 2011 graduate of Century High School in Bismarck was looking forward to coming home after a yearlong deployment with the North Dakota National Guard's 818th Engineer Company.

He would have been home in just three months, Kristy Orgaard said.

The last time Tyler spoke to his sister, she said he told her, "There's no place else in the world or nothing I would rather be doing than what I am doing right now."

Orgaard was killed Monday along with Sgt. 1st Class Darren M. Linde, 41, of Devils Lake when an improvised explosive device struck their vehicle in southern Afghanistan while conducting route clearance operations.

Spc. Ian Charles Placek, 23, also of Bismarck, was wounded in the attack and is in stable condition at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Although nearly half Orgaard's company had served on previous overseas missions, according to the National Guard, this was Orgaard's first deployment.

He joined the National Guard in May 2011, shortly before graduating from high school. His family had little history of military service. His father said Tyler had also debated joining the U.S. Marines.

"He very much wanted to be in a combat unit. He wanted to be in the middle of the action," he said. "That's why he chose a combat unit. He wanted to make a difference."

When Orgaard left for Afghanistan, his mother asked him if he was scared.

His reply: "Of course I'm scared; anybody that tells you they are not scared is lying. It's not about the fear, it's about going to do what I want to do," Josie Orgaard said.

After his military service, Tyler Orgaard planned to return to martial arts training and possibly attend business school to one day open his own fitness club, his family said.

Orgaard also had a special gift for music; he learned to play piano and guitar by ear.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family asked Thursday that memorials be sent to Bismarck Combat Sports, the facility where Orgaard trained.

Despite their loss, the Orgaard family was more concerned with their son's fellow guardsmen Thursday morning.

Jesse Orgaard said he worried about how his son's "guard family" was coping with the loss, knowing they had to continue on in service, with little time to grieve.

"Those guys are all very courageous. I can't wait to stand at the armory and see the rest of them come home," he said. "I pray they all come home."