Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter

WHITWELL, TN. (WRCB)- We waited with Kim Michaels last July for her then-fiancee, Josh Meeks to return home from Iraq.

Sunday, she and the Whitwell community are mourning the loss of a husband and soldier.

Specialist Josh Meeks died instantly when he was shot in the head Saturday night.

That's what Meeks' older brother told Channel 3.

He said his brother had just bought a 9-millimeter pistol, and pulled it out Saturday night to clean and show his friends.

That's when the gun accidentally fired.

"A lot of blue lights and flashing lights, a lot of people screaming coming in and out," says Rosemary Dent, neighbor.

Rosemary Dent says she knew whatever happened next door wasn't good.

"They had tape around the front door," says Dent.

Dent sat on her porch and watched the commotion unfold into the wee hours of the morning.

"I got a call saying that he had passed and that he had had an accident," says Jake Meeks.

Jake Meeks wasn't there Saturday night, but his friends and family were.

His younger brother "Red" and his wife were visiting with some military friends, in town for a special ceremony that happened in Cleveland Sunday honoring Meeks' National Guard unit, the 252nd.

"He was sitting back and having a good time, he was showing them the new gun that he got," says Jake.

That's when things inside the home went horribly wrong. The 9-millimeter pistol Meeks was cleaning accidentally discharged.

We first meet Josh Meeks in July, the day the 252nd returned from Iraq, the day his family hugged him again for the first time in a year.

"It feels amazing to be back in America, where people love us and got good friends and family all over the place," said Josh Meeks in July.

Affectionately called "Red" by friends and family, Meeks married, Kim, his fiancee three months ago.

He was preparing to serve another tour of duty in Afghanistan, but that won't happen now.

"Right now we're all still in shock, we're handling it the best we can," says Jake.

Meeks would have been promoted from private to sergeant at the National Guard ceremony.

Family members did attend on his behalf.

His funeral is being arranged through Reed's Funeral Home in Whitwell.