WATERVILLE – A Waterville High School graduate died Thursday while serving with the Army in the Wardak Province of Afghanistan.

Spc. Wade A. Slack, 21, was with the 707th Ordnance Battalion, out of Fort Lewis, Wash., and specialized in defusing explosives.

Slack attended Waterville High from 2003 to 2007. He is the son of Alan and Rose Slack of Waterville and Mary Slack of Waterville.

Alan Slack, veterinarian at the New England Animal Hospital in Waterville, said Friday that his son “had been oriented for military service since 14” and enlisted while he was a senior in high school for specialized training that required “intelligence and a top-secret security background check.”

“It’s not something every person can qualify for,” Alan Slack said. “He had been in Afghanistan the last 10 months. I saw him at Christmas, talked with him last weekend — he was very happy. I sent him a postcard every day.”

On Friday, Gov. John Baldacci ordered flags lowered to half-staff on the day of Slack’s funeral, the date of which had not been set.

Alan Slack said he and other immediate family members would leave early today to attend a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware in the evening.

Wade Slack was promoted last year to specialist with a specialty in explosive ordnance disposal. He completed his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and his advanced individual training at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and Englin Air Force Base, Fla.

Robert Fletcher of Waterville, a longtime family friend, said Friday that he was amazed by how quickly news of Slack’s death had spread. The result, he said, was that everybody was quickly able to start consoling each other.

“People got together really quickly,” Fletcher said. “He was loved by many and liked by everyone.”

Carole Dodge, assistant principal at the high school, recalled Slack as an honor student who was passionate and caring, who knew by high school that he wanted to serve in the military. Dodge said she had Slack as a student when she taught music at the junior high school.

“He died doing exactly what he wanted to do,” Dodge said. “He was a great young man. He was focused and knew what he wanted in life.”

At The Last Unicorn, where Slack worked on and off as a cook from 2005 to 2007, employees hugged and comforted each other on Friday.

Michelle Cyr, owner of The Last Unicorn, said Slack’s brothers and sisters have also worked at the restaurant — and some still do. Slack, she said, was a “fine young man” who was an example to his siblings.

“He was the sweetest, kindest — and brave,” Cyr said. “It’s so tragic. Anybody who knew him, they loved him.”

And as a specialist who disarmed explosives, “he saved so many lives,” Cyr said.

Jason Ladd, a dishwasher at the restaurant, said he and Slack had been friends since Slack was 10. Ladd, who was seven years older, said he’ll remember Slack as a supportive friend who gave good advice and enjoyed video games, movies and shooting.

Every time Slack came home on leave from the Army, he would take time to visit as many friends and family members as possible, Ladd said. “His family was the world to him.”

According to Slack’s MySpace page, which prominently features a background image of Batman from the movie “The Dark Knight,” he liked “a lot of stuff,” but “mostly my family, which includes my friends because if (you’re) in the same business that I am, then you would understand that your friends are family.”

In a statement, Baldacci said Friday that he had spoken with Slack’s parents.

“We can never take for granted the service of our men and women in uniform,” Baldacci said. “They are the best among us and sacrifice for their country and their communities. All of Maine mourns his passing.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said in a statement that Maine “has a long tradition of coming together during a crisis, and I know the entire Waterville community and all Mainers will join me in assisting Wade’s family with whatever they need during this difficult time.”

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe said in a statement that Slack “tragically gave his life defending our nation with limitless courage” and that “we owe him a debt of immeasurable gratitude that we can never repay, and must never forget.”

Scott Monroe — 861-9253

[email protected]