Eugene C. Mills, III dies in Afghanistan

Lance Cpl. Eugene C. Mills, III loved his country almost as much as he loved his family. The 21-year-old Marine was half way through his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when he was fatally shot on Friday.

"We're gonna miss him every day...," said his father, Gene Mills, II.

The proud father is mourning the loss of his first born son.

Gene said his son made the decision to join the military as he watched the twin towers burn on 9/11 when he was just 10-years-old.

"He goes,'Dad...when I grow older, I'm going to join the military, and I'm going to protect this country,' and he stuck to it," Gene explained.

Gene has worn his son's dog tags through both of his son's tours of duty.{ }

He added, "I'll wear this until the day I die...."

Eugene spoke with his father just three days before he died.

"He goes, 'Hey, more mission I'll be home--be home in a month,' and he said, 'I love you pops,' and I said, 'I love you...'," Gene recalled.

Wednesday, in his hometown of Laurel, flag flew at half staff.

Even after his graduation, he stayed in touch with his high school guidance counselor, Katherine Conley.

"He was an extremely caring and thoughtful person--very helpful. If any of his peers at school had a bad day or needed support, he was the first one to go and help them," Conley said.

Gene added that his son isn't a hero because he died in the line of duty, he became a hero the day he took the oath to be a Marine.

"As far as I'm concerned, there is no profession that is more noble than to protect the United States of America and that's what he loved," Gene continued.

Eugene was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom at the time of his death.

He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.