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(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Matthew Leach loved being a soldier.

So much so that when two tours of duty in Iraq ended, he signed up for a third in Afghanistan and planned to make the military his career.

The 29-year-old Army Reserve staff sergeant from Ferndale was found unresponsive in his bed Tuesday at his base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the cause of death not readily apparent. His wife said he was in good health, and she hopes to learn more in coming days about what happened to him.

"He was happy to be doing what he was doing and felt like he was doing something for his country," Sarah Leach, 30, of Ferndale, said Thursday about her husband. "He was a great father and a husband."

The Leaches' son, Jack, celebrated his seventh birthday Thursday.

Matthew Leach was born in Texas and moved with his family to Pennsylvania and later to Ferndale.

Sarah Leach said she and her husband attended elementary, junior high and high school together but didn't start dating until after they graduated in 2000. They married in 2005.

After high school, Matthew Leach worked as a state certified auto body repair specialist at a collision shop in Ferndale. Family members described him as energetic, creative and someone who wanted to excel. They said he was an avid hunter.

They said he joined the Army in 2003 because he wanted to serve his country after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He served two tours, totaling 20 months in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division.

After the second tour ended in 2008, he joined the Army Reserve and signed up for a one-year tour in Afghanistan, where he worked with robots. He was a member of the 1/334th Regiment, 1st Brigade, 104th Training Division based in Fraser.

His wife said he had been in Afghanistan for about a month and that she got an e-mail from him last week indicating he was happy to be there.

An Army buddy, James Madden, 28, of suburban Minneapolis, said Leach was a loyal friend.

"He was the best friend you could have," Madden said. "He would do anything for you."

Sarah Leach said her husband's body was to be returned to the U.S. on Thursday night and would arrive in Ferndale in seven-10 days.

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