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MIDLAND - Friends saw courage within Aaron Ullom long before he died at war in Afghanistan on Tuesday as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy.
Ullom, 20, of Midland"was definitely brave," recalled Arielle Stoneburner, 20, of Midland, a friend of Aaron Ullom who graduated with him from Midland High School in 2009.
"I know there were times when somebody needed help with something and it seemed like the most ridiculous thing they needed done, or something you would never find anybody to do, and here'd come Aaron, coming down the road, wanting to do it," Stoneburner said.
Ware Smith Woolever Funeral Home of Midland is handling arrangements for Ullom, whose remains will arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Thursday afternoon, according to the funeral home. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
Stoneburner said relatives of Ullom said he was shot and killed by enemy fire Tuesday in Afghanistan.
Ullom had served as a Navy hospital corpsman since October of 2009, according to his online Facebook page.
"He was really a hard-driven kid," Stoneburner said." He was one of those kids where if you went up to him and asked him a question, he would find out the answer for you no matter how long he had to work on getting it.
"If you went up to him and said 'I bet you can't do something,' he'd say 'Watch me.'"
Before joining the Navy, Ullom worked at the Genji Japanese Steakhouse in Midland from 2007 to 2009, according to his Facebook page.
Karen Nizinski, manager of the steakhouse where Ullom worked as a busperson and helped in the kitchen, said Ullom "was a very pleasant boy to work with, a very nice young man who was well-mannered and responsible."
Ullom "was always really smart, and was always, like, the teacher's role model," said Amanda Alaniz, 20, of Midland, who graduated from Midland High in Ullom's class and met him in sixth grade when the pair attended Northeast Middle School, 1305 E. Sugnet.
"He was pretty quiet, but was really a nice, nice kid," Alaniz said. "He was always serious about his school work, I remember that. I loved it when our teachers made me his partner on a project in school."
While some students "would always want Aaron to do the whole project," Alaniz said she strived to do her share of the work. She recalled working on one of their projects over the weekend and showing the progress to Ullom one Monday.
"I remember the look on his face. It was, like, 'Oh, wow, thank you,' and he was really grateful," she said.