The family of the British soldier brutally slain in a cleaver attack in southeast London spoke movingly Friday of a man who was a devoted husband, father and brother, as well as a dedicated serviceman.
Stepfather Ian Rigby said Drummer Lee Rigby was a "precious gift" who had always wanted to serve in the army and was a devoted family man.
It was difficult accepting that his stepson died on his native soil, he said.
When a soldier is serving in Afghanistan, "you come to terms with it," Ian Rigby said. "You don't expect something like that on your doorstep. It's very difficult."
"I just want to say that I love Lee, I always will, and I'm proud to be his wife," said Rebecca Rigby, sobbing. "He was a devoted father to our son, Jack, and we will both miss him terribly."
Her husband had been due to travel home to see her and their 2-year-old son this weekend, she said.
In the capital's Woolwich neighborhood, where Rigby was slain Wednesday by two men who drove a car into him, then hacked him with knives and a cleaver, a bank of flowers left in tribute swelled by the hour Friday.
Many of those who came to the road near an army barracks were emotional as they paid tribute not just to him, but to the contribution of all British servicemen and women.
A note signed by two army cadets, reads: "I understand the great lengths you would have gone to to protect our British people. It's a huge disappointment to hear the way people have treated you in your own country."
One bouquet , propped in a pair of black army boots, had a message that read: "RIP Brave Soldier. Dream sweet dreams. Remembered always and never forgotten. Our thoughts with you and your family."
One elderly man, using a cane, had tears in his eyes as he walked, shaking his head, up and down the flowers for half an hour. He removed his hat, looked to the heavens and made the sign of the cross.
Another woman, loudly sobbing, asked police officers standing by the growing array of tributes: "Why did this happen, why did this happen here? My children go to the school just there."
A man sharply dressed in a suit and tie brought his toddler son to drop off flowers, each placing their blooms next to the army boots. The father reached down to hug his son, tears filling his eyes.
One note referred to both a quote by the late Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi and comments made by one of the attackers, saying: "An eye for an eye makes the world go blind."
Another had a more sinister message. Attached to a wooden cross adorned with a red poppy, the symbol of remembrance for the British armed forces, it read: "Your passing shall be avenged."
Outpouring of support for charity for vets
Since the brutal slaying, the outpouring of support for a charity that supports Britain's wounded military veterans, Help for Heroes, has been so great that its website has crashed.
Rigby, a 25-year-old machine gunner and military drummer, was wearing a Help for Heroes T-shirt when he was attacked in Woolwich, according to witnesses.
Help for Heroes said Friday it had been "overwhelmed with people spontaneously showing their support for the Armed Forces" since the news broke.
"This sudden surge of interest in the work we're doing to help the wounded and their families has taken us completely by surprise," the charity said, noting that some were buying hoodies and T-shirts like the one Rigby had on.
"We just want to help, and all funds we receive will be used to provide direct, practical support to those affected by their service to our country."
3 men arrested in connection to slaying
There's been no indication that Rigby knew the men who attacked him with meat cleavers Wednesday afternoon.
One of the two, who approached a man filming the gory scene in the Woolwich neighborhood, suggested that Rigby had been targeted only "because Muslims are dying daily" at the hands of British troops like him. Britain's armed forces have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. All its combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
"We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," he said in the video aired by CNN affiliate ITN.