Upon his return from Iraq, Army Spc. Christopher K. Hill had hoped to bring his wife and baby daughter from North Carolina to visit the Moorpark neighborhood where he grew up.
After his death, many neighbors there decorated their homes and mailboxes with American flags to honor the hometown hero who never came home.
In the days after his burial, his parents, Ken and Adrienne Hill, went to each house and placed a note near the flags, thanking the neighbors for their support. "I have to do positive things to show our love," his mother said.
Hill, 26, was killed March 11 when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Fallouja. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, Kan.
Hill was born in Fontana and moved with his family to Moorpark when he was about 9, his family said. He was active in the Boy Scouts and was an altar boy at Holy Cross Catholic Church.
Hill attended Moorpark High School, where he played the tuba in the band, and later studied at Moorpark College.
"He was an outgoing and loving guy," said one of his childhood friends, Becky Hayden. "He made everybody laugh all the time."
After two years of college, Hill joined the Army when he was 20, his family said. He served in South Korea for a year and was part of the military honor guard at Arlington National Cemetery.
While he was based at Ft. Myers, Va., Hill met Cheryl Cope, who is from North Carolina, through military friends. In September 2002, the couple were married in Florida, where Cope's family has a beach house. The couple have a 1-year-old daughter, Cierra.
Hill was discharged from the Army in 2001, but continued to serve as an Army reservist, his mother said. He reenlisted later that year, soon after Sept. 11.
Hill was deployed to Iraq in September and was scheduled to return to the United States last Wednesday.
During a conversation with his mother hours before his death, Hill talked of his plans to visit Moorpark, but added: "I have one more mission to go on."
Hill was buried March 18 at Crown Memorial Park in Charlotte, N.C., a place he had chosen if he were to die so he could be close to his wife and daughter. Hundreds of people packed Holy Cross Church in Moorpark for a memorial March 21.
Hill also is survived by a brother, Ryan; a sister, April; his paternal grandmother, Marlys Hill; and maternal grandfather, Charles Isbell.