Wichitan Carla Kryston never considered the possibility her son might not come home.
“He had a good head on his shoulders,” she said Thursday. “He was a good man. This totally came out of left field.”
Her son, Sgt. Erik May, 26, was found unresponsive and later pronounced dead on Saturday at a medical facility in eastern Afghanistan. The Army is investigating the cause of death.
Sgt. May was on his second deployment when he died. He had served in Iraq in 2009. He deployed to Afghanistan from Fort Riley on May 23.
Never miss a local story.
Funeral services are pending.
“That kid wanted everybody to love him. He never bothered anybody. He was never a bully. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body,” said Ron Green, Sgt. May’s stepfather.
He was born May 12, 1986, at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita. For a brief time he attended West High School. He graduated from Fredonia High School in 2004.
While in Wichita, he participated in West High’s ROTC program.
“He always had a love for the Army,” Kryston said. “He always wanted to go into the Army even when he was 6 years old. We did everything we could to discourage him from going into the military.”
When Sgt. May was 18, his father, Jeffery Scott May, died. On his deathbed, his father made him promise not to join the military until three years after his death.
He kept that promise.
He joined the Army from Independence in September 2007. He was assigned to Fort Riley in February 2009. Sgt. May was an infantryman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, which is currently deployed.
His awards include an Army Commendation Medal, an Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal with one campaign star, and the Iraq Campaign Medal with one campaign star.
“He was very much going to be career Army,” Green said.
Sgt. May was the type of man who was generous and loyal to the people he loved, Kryston said.
When friends came up short of money, he loaned them not only money, but sometimes his pickup truck.
“One of his friends didn’t have enough money for his wife’s plane ticket. Erik loaned him the money for the ticket, then drove him to Kansas City to pick up his wife and then handed over his truck keys and told the couple to go enjoy themselves,” Kryston said. “He did stuff like that all the time.”
When he deployed for Afghanistan less than two months ago, Kryston said she did not expect that it would be the last time she saw her son alive.
Sgt. May, however, did explain to his mother what would happen if he were to die in Afghanistan – an Army officer and a chaplain would show up at her doorstep.
“When I saw them, I immediately knew what had happened,” she said.
Sgt. May is survived by his mother, Carla Kryston, and her husband, Leonard Kryston, Wichita; stepfather, Ron Green of Wichita; and grandparents, Jerry and Mary Ann May, Toronto, Kan.