The war on terror has made its way to the small town of Tolar.

The close knit community learned that one of its own - Sgt. 1st Class Riley G. Stephens - died Friday in Wardak, Afghanistan of wounds sustained in small arms fire.

Those who knew and loved Stephens are struggling to come to grips with the loss and are making plans to remember a man who loved his hometown and his country.

"Riley was a character," Tolar resident Brenda Strickland said. "He was a free spirit with a host of friends. He loved his country very much."

The community will host a candlelight vigil at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the old Tolar Rattler football field located at 401 East 7th Street.

"Riley loved playing football on that field," Strickland said. "His father wanted (the vigil) to be held there."

Stephens, 39, was one of 14 students who graduated from Tolar High School in 1991.

Cindy Poston graduated with Stephens, and although she hasn't seen him in many years, said she remembers him as a friendly guy who was also outspoken.

"He was a nice guy, but you always knew where you stood with him," Poston said. "I remember that he kept to himself. He got good grades and did what he was supposed to do."

Stephens enlisted as an infantryman in the U.S. Army in 1993, but returned to Tolar several times over the years to see his family. His parents, Mic and Joanne Stephens, are Tolar residents and his brother Ken is also in the military.

A couple of years ago, Stephens came home to participate in the Fourth of July parade where he was named Tolar's hometown hero.

Stephens' military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Achievement Medal with Valor Device, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Three Campaign Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and many, many others.

He is survived by three children.