ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. — His pastor remembered that whenever he grabbed Sgt. Tyler Juden's arm while shaking hands after church services, it felt as strong as a piece of pipe.
But Juden's real strength wasn't in his arms, or in the gun he used as a sniper in Afghanistan, said pastor Norman Reeves of Dexter Christian Church.
"His strength was in his savior Lord, Jesus Christ. And through the strength of his savior Lord, Tyler became a hero. A hero that this city will never forget."
Reeves delivered the eulogy at services Tuesday for Juden, who died Sept. 12 in Afghanistan. About 2,000 people attended at the W.S. Scott Auditorium on the campus of Cowley College.
"Tyler went to Afghanistan for one purpose, and that was to give his life if necessary for our freedom," Reeves said.
Juden, 23, was killed when enemy forces attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire near Turan, Afghanistan.
Reeves remembered that when Juden was 10, he asked his father, Bob, when he was going to be baptized, because he always planned ahead.
His faith served him well in Afghanistan, Reeves said.
"I believe when Tyler got into the war zone, I think he realized how important that faith was to him. That was his hope, that's what he leaned on," Reeves said.
The phrase about losing a loved one isn't appropriate in Juden's case, he said.
"We haven't lost him at all," Reeves said. "We know where he's at. He's alive and well with the one he loves so very much. He's in heaven."
A 2004 graduate of Arkansas City High School, Juden was active in football and track and was an excellent shooter.
He joined the Army in 2005 and was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, N.C. He was a sniper and squad leader in Afghanistan.
Juden's commanding officer characterized him as the greatest soldier he'd ever seen, Reeves said. Another officer said Juden's professionalism and dedication to serve his country were unmatched, Reeves said.
Still another officer said that Juden was someone soldiers respected and looked to when things weren't going right, a go-to guy.
Juden also had been respected by people in Arkansas City, whether in church or on the football field, he said.
"They looked to him for leadership, and Tyler gave it," Reeves said.
Army Brig. Gen. Roger Matthews placed three medals on Juden's flag-draped casket at the front of the auditorium: the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal with bronze oak-leaf cluster.
Several hundred Patriot Guard members lined the streets outside the auditorium before and during the service.
Schools in Arkansas City closed at 12:30 p.m. to allow students and faculty to attend. Juden's parents, Bob and Reatha Juden, are teachers.
Juden was buried at Memorial Lawn Cemetery.