TAMPA — The flag waved at half staff in front of a Thonotosassa family's home Tuesday — signifying the loss of their son, Marine Sgt. Daniel M. Angus, in Afghanistan on Sunday.
Sgt. Angus, 28, was on his third tour of duty in the Middle East when he and two other Marines were killed during combat in the Helmand province, according to the Department of Defense.
Also killed were Lance Cpl. Zachary D. Smith, 19, of Hornell, N.Y., and Lance Cpl. Timothy J. Poole, 22, of Bowling Green, Ky.
Angus' father, William, lowered the flag to half staff before the family left to claim the sergeant's remains at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, said Carroll Hanson, 28, a close friend of Sgt. Angus'.
"That his father lowered the flag is amazing to me. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to do that," he said.
A next-door neighbor's flag had also been lowered in honor of Sgt. Angus.
Angus and Hanson graduated together in 2000 from Armwood High School, and had been friends since the second grade.
"He was practically an adopted son of my family," the special education teacher recalled. "He ate dinner at my house four nights a week during high school."
After graduation, Angus spent about six months finding his way in life.
"He was on an unsure track for a while, and when he went into the Marines it really made him a beautiful human being," Hanson said.
Angus met his wife, Bonnie, in Tennessee through a mutual friend. The couple has a young daughter he loved dearly, Hanson said. They also were at Dover Tuesday night with his parents.
Not much for organized sports, Angus preferred outdoor activities.
"We hiked, canoed … we would go out and play at war, and he would show me what he knew," Hanson said.
In December, as his unit was departing for Afghanistan, Angus spoke with a reporter from CCTV, a Chinese television outlet.
"It's a jump and run kind of thing. You never know when you are going to go," he said. "It is not my first Christmas away from home. It is not going to be my last."
CCTV reported Angus's 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force of Camp Lejeune, N.C., was the first wave in the surge of 30,000 military personnel heading for the country.
"Soldiers from the 1st Battalion are heading for Helmand Province in Afghanistan where they are expected to face a bloody fight with the Taliban insurgency," the news station wrote.
Hanson said Angus was well known for his dependability — a quality that made him a great friend.
"He was a light in the darkness," Hanson said. "He always made sure you believed there was a light in the darkness too."
Funeral plans have not been finalized.
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813)226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.