PRIEST RIVER, Idaho -- A friend of the North Idaho airman who was killed during a training exercise in eastern England said she remembers Staff Sergeant Afton Ponce as an extraordinary person, friend and mother.
Ponce, 28, grew up in Priest River and graduated from high school there in 2003. Nikki Dodd said Afton was one of her best friends while at Priest River Lamanna High School.
“We rode together all the time, skipped first period to get mochas kind of thing. So we just hung out all the time,” said Dodd.
Ponce used to date Dodd’s brother, but the two became inseparable.
“She has such a huge heart,” said Dodd.
Ponce was planning to come back to visit Priest River in February for the first time in a while. She and Dodd planned to catch up.
“We were supposed to have lunch next month. We had just made that arrangement the middle of December. So it was pretty hard,” said Dodd.
Ponce came from a military family. Her father and two brothers also served our country. Ponce’s husband is an airman as well.
She also leaves behind two young sons, a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old.
“But I couldn’t imagine…It’s good that they’ve got a good dad and that they’ve got a lot of family to be there to help him and help them get through this,” said Dodd.
Dodd and other friends plan to honor and pay tribute to Ponce.
She is survived by her husband, two children, mother, two brothers, and three sisters.