The Department of Defense announced Thursday that a Crossville soldier was killed in action this week in Afghanistan.
DOD said Sgt. Daniel T. Lee, 28, died Tuesday from wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire during combat operations in the Parwan Province of Afghanistan.
Sgt. Lee is survived by his wife, Suzy, and their 6-month-old son, Daniel Roderick. He's also survived by his parents, Daniel and Frances, as well as his older sister, Jamie Hahn.
Thursday, WBIR talked with Lee's cousin Kathy Denton, who said he moved to Powell in 2005 in order to straighten his life out and then worked in Crossville. Shortly thereafter, Lee joined the military in 2008.
Denton always called her cousin 'Tall Dan' -- since Lee's stature was 6 feet 5 inches.
"'Tall Dan,' when he moved here -- he was just a kid. He was in his 20s, not a worry in the world, didn't have a job. He was just 'Tall Dan,'" Denton said Thursday, 24 hours after learning her cousin was killed in Afghanistan.
"He was so fun and just compassionate, and just loving. I mean you wouldn't have a conversation without him without laughing," she added.
Lee grew up in Kentucky, and moved to Tennessee in 2005. After taking management jobs at Lowe's in Crossville, Sgt. Lee joined the Army in 2008. He became a member of the famed Green Berets in 2013.
"I saw him and talked to him on Christmas, my family and I did," Denton remembered the last time she spoke to Sgt. Lee through a Skype conversation. "We sat right here, and he was sitting right there, cleaning his guns and talking to us like it was another day at work."
Now this family, in tears and in mourning, have are the memories of 'Tall Dan', and a new sense of respect for a young man, who gave everything he had.
"I can say honestly myself -- I didn't always stop the men and women out there -- fighting for our country," said Denton. She said now, that has changed.
In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, his family talked about his impact on others.
"He lit up a room when he came in and he was always smiling," said the soldier's father, Daniel Patrick Lee. "He had such a positive outlook in life, was very strong and very dedicated to the U.S. Army."
"He was very fun loving and always found a silver lining to everything," his father said. "He really turned his life around with the Army and found his calling. He loved it."
Lee's wife, who lives near family in Arizona, was the first family member to receive word of his death early Wednesday. She contacted Hahn, Lee's sister, at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Hahn, along with Army officials, then went over to her parents home in Fort Wright to deliver the news.
"It was absolutely devastating," Hahn said of breaking the news to her parents. "It was a nightmare."
When she got there, Hahn didn't have to say anything.
"We both answered the door and as soon as the two people from the Army came up to our door, we knew exactly what happened," her father said. "They sent us an agent with the Army who has organized everything. They have just stepped up."
When asked what memory of her brother stands out, Hahn didn't have to look far back. "I just spoke to him on Sunday on a video chat. We would talk often. He was nothing but laughs and great spirits. I would have never thought in a million years that this would happen. ... It was just a very nice conversation."
Sgt. Lee had earned his Green Beret and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C. He was fighting in Afghanistan as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
It was Sgt. Lee's first deployment to Afghanistan. He previously had been deployed to Iraq.
He first enlisted in the U.S. army back in 2007. He completed his training and then in 2009 served as a scout with the 1st Cav. Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After returning to the states, Lee volunteered for Special Forces Assessment and Selection. He earned his Green Beret in 2012 and graduated as a Special Forces Communication Sergeant.
Sgt. Lee's awards and decorations include: the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Basic Parachutist Badge and the Special Forces Tab.