A flag that once hid underneath Riley Stephen's uniform now flies at half-staff in front of the Gieryic family home after 18-year-old Kristina delivered some bad news to her father on Saturday.
"She had a flag folded in her hands and tears in her eyes and she said 'daddy, will you help me put this flag up at half staff?' and I said 'what's wrong, baby?' and she said 'Riley died,'" said Tom Gieryic, owner of Gieryic Automotive Repair.
Stephens, a Texas native and U.S. Soldier, contacted the Gieryic family back in March after they were ordered by Code Enforcement to take a small flag down off of the right-of-way in front of Gieryic's shop. The story went national and caught Stephen's attention -- causing him to send his flag among other gifts -- and from there a friendship formed.
"Just became really good friends through all of that, we always communicated over Facebook, messaging and keeping up to what he was doing and all of that wonderful stuff," said Tom's daughter, Kristina Gieryic.
Riley was voluntarily serving a term overseas as a medic when he was killed in the line of duty on Friday -- the Gieryic's said once they heard the news, they decided to honor the fallen solider with the symbol of support he once gave them.
"Us just having a relationship with Riley and his family, I mean it was what we needed to do, a no-brainer. We just had to do it," said Tom.
"It's so wonderful to be able to honor him, it's like the least we can do to honor him and the rest of the people who are doing what he's doing for us," said Kristina.
The flags will stay at half-staff while Stephens is brought back to the U-S and laid to rest.
Tom is offering American flag car magnets to anyone interested in showing their support. The magnets are free and are available at Gieryic Automotive Repair on Dawson Road.