Riley Stephens, back row, fifth from left, is seen with his unit in Afghanistan.
ALBANY, Ga. -- After struggling with ordinances that restrict flags and other roadside signs, the Gieryic family performed a sad duty -- it lowered its two flags in honor of a flag-bearing friend killed in Afghanistan.
In the backyard tending to yard work Tom Gieryic looked up to see his daughter Kristina walking slowly to him holding the triangle-folded American flag given his family by an Army Special Forces medic.
"Dad we have to put this flag up," 18-year-old Kristina Gieryic said. "Riley is dead. We have to put up Riley's flag he wore in battle."
Stationed at Fort Bragg in March, 39-year-old Riley Stephens supported Gieryic after hearing about the problems the auto-repair shop owner had with code enforcement. It concerned the placing of a flag on the right-of-way on Dawson Road at the shop.
"He sent my dad the flag his company flew during a tour of Afghanistan," Kristina said. "He wore it in combat under his armor in the war."
Kristina stayed Facebook Friends with Stephens after his deployment. She got word of the death at her home Saturday morning.
"When I heard, I just didn't want to get out of bed," Kristina said. "It hit me and I went to tell my dad."
After raising the flag to half-staff at their home, the Gieryics drove to the repair shop. Joining them automotive technician Raymond Major set about adding "RIP Riley Stephens" under the first line on a sign that states "Fly Your Flags."
Together the three lowered the flag to its proper place to honor the fallen medic. Tom Gieryic said Stephens had recently taken the place of another fallen medic in a squad at an officer's request.
"I don't think he had to," Gieryic said, "but he did."
In a compromise with the laws governing the right-of-way Gieryic has moved the pole for the flag. He keeps it flying legally and with pride.