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'True Heroes Never Make It Home': Colorado Soldier Memorialized

By Dillon Thomas

LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4) – Hundreds gathered Saturday to honor the life of fallen soldier Spc. Gabriel "Gabe" Conde.

Conde was killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan in April.

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Gabriel Conde's father, Bob Conde speaks at his memorial service. (credit: CBS)

Conde was remembered as a man of faith, confidence, and literature. Several of Conde's family members, and friends, read poems he wrote them about being faithful to God, and serving his country.

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Spc. Gabriel Conde (credit: CBS)

"Gabe embodied the kind of man all girls should look for, and the kind of person young men should inspire to be," said Kiah Leonard, a friend of Conde's.

Holding back tears as well as she could, Conde's mother shared her memories of her son, and the final moments they spent together.

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Gabriel Conde's mother, Donna Conde speaks at his memorial service. (credit: CBS)

"Last year, before he left just before Memorial Day, was the worst time. Because, I didn't know if I would see him alive again," said Donna Conde, Gabriel's mother. "I cried, 'Come home alive, Gabe.' He said, 'I will, Mom.' This is the only time he did not comply with a command from his momma."

Conde wrote many emails, letters, and poems for those he loved. In an email to Leonard, Conde expressed his enthusiasm to be deployed overseas.

"I find myself increasingly excited as the date for my departure to Afghanistan draws closer," Leonard read.

Some, including Conde's father, suggested he foreshadowed his own death through his writing.

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(credit: CBS)

"For war is my art and my calling," Conde wrote in a notebook. "And, should I die, others will rise to take up my fight. The battle is the Lord's, and I fight with His guidance."

Conde, most notably known for his faith, was remembered by another soldier as the man who lead him to a relationship with God.

"Gabe was deep rooted in his faith, emulating Jesus' sacrificial love both in life and in death," Leonard said.

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(credit: CBS)

Some of Conde's fellow soldiers spoke at his funeral, and discussed his passion for defending the innocent Afghani people.

"He lived to free the oppressed and to fight for the light of the world," said Lt. Lucas Behler, who was with Conde in Afghanistan the day he was killed. "The very last thing that Gabe said to me before the helicopters came was, 'Sir, can you take a hero photo of me for the family?"

Known for his desire to be in the middle of action, help others, and fire his beloved machine gun, Behler said he was not shocked to hear Conde was the soldier killed that day.

"When I heard the call from medivac come over the radio, and then one American K-I-A (killed in action) my thoughts immediately turned to Gabe," Behler said.

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(credit: CBS)

Travis Marshall, a fellow soldier, told those at the funeral Conde's death should remind Americans of the sacrifice he was willing to pay, to make sure others he didn't know could survive.

"True heroes never make it home, so their brothers can," Marshall said. "We must cherish our experience, and time, with him. Celebrate their life, and not dwell on their death. We must live for their honor respectfully, so that their death is not in vain."

Conde's family said he loved Afghanistan, and described the mountains as beautiful. His fellow soldiers said he also became friends with many Afghani natives.

They set up a fund in his name, which they plan to use in order to free innocent Afghani people from human trafficking, something Conde was passionate about.

PHOTO GALLERY: Spc. Gabriel Conde Funeral Procession

Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.

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