The Fort Bliss community is in mourning after one of the darkest days for the post in more than 10 years of the war on terror.
Six soldiers, all from the 978th Military Police Company of Fort Bliss, were killed Sunday in a roadside blast in eastern Afghanistan, according to family members and news media reports across the country.
The soldiers' deaths were the worst one-day loss of life for the post since the 507th Maintenance Company lost nine soldiers at the outset of the Iraq war in March 2003.
The MPs killed were:
- Spc. Erica Alecksen, 21, of Eatonton, Ga.
- Pfc. Cameron Stambaugh, 20, of York, Pa.
- Spc. Clarence Williams III, 23, of Brooksville, Fla.
- Pfc. A.J. Pardo, 21, of Porterville, Calif.
- Staff Sgt. Ricardo Seija, 31, Tampa Bay, Fla.
- Pfc. Trevor Adkins, age and hometown unknown.
Fort Bliss officials said Tuesday that they could not comment on or verify the deaths. Department of Defense officials also said they had no information to release.
However, some family members of the fallen soldiers spoke to the news media.
"It's pretty tough right now," Stambaugh's father, Mitchell Stambaugh, said in a telephone interview from his home in Jackson Township, Pa. "It's just shocking right now. We are waiting to get his body back home."
A memorial of photos, candles and American
flags was started under a tree in the front yard of Stambaugh's parents' home, reported the York Daily Record, a Pennsylvania newspaper.
When asked how he wanted his son remembered, Mitchell Stambaugh's voice broke.
"As a true hero, a true hero," Mitchell Stambaugh said in a video taken by the York Daily Record. "He paid his all. He gave his all."
For the family of Williams, who was described as a country boy who dreamed of seeing the world, the loss is unbearable.
"Just glad my brother doesn't have to fight any more wars anymore -- his battle on earth is just over, you know," his sister, Abrill Edwards, told Tampa's Fox 13 television station. "He's in heaven now. I'll be able to see him one day. It's just hard now, hurts, I can't
call him anymore. He'll be here in spirit."
At Fort Bliss, the six deaths add to the mounting toll of the war on terror. More than 60 of the post's soldiers have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghan istan. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division -- more colorfully known as the Bulldog Brigade -- has lost a dozen members since its deployment to Afghanistan last fall.
Members of the 978th Military Police Company deployed in June 2011 and more deployed in February this year.
Previously, two members of the unit were killed in action in Iraq -- Spc. Gary L. Moore on March 16, 2009, and Cpl. James M. Hale on Aug. 13, 2008.
The six soldiers were killed Sunday when their armored vehicle struck a bomb in the Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan, German Brig. Gen. Gunter Katz, a spokes man for the U.S.-led coalition, said in an Associated Press report.
A Facebook page called Stolen Valor, dedicated to revealing people who falsely claim military service, reported that the families of all six fallen soldiers killed on Sunday have been notified.
"God bless the fallen, their families and their friends," the site read. "And may the soldiers rest in peace and their families find comfort in this time of mourning."
Christopher Gallego, who served with the 978th in Iraq in 2003, posted on Facebook that "my heart goes out to these great soldiers."
Others on the Stolen Valor site vowed that the soldiers would never be forgotten and wished their families comfort during these difficult times.
The Associated Press reported that the deaths were part of a surge of violence in Afghanistan that has served as a stark reminder that war is still raging even as NATO plots an exit strategy for the end of 2014. Several news outlets reported that Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the deaths.
Sunday's wave of roadside bombs and insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan also killed 19 Afghan civilians and seven Afghan policemen.
Attackers have picked up the pace during the summer by planting bombs along roads or footpaths. But during the past year, U.S. troops found and avoided more homemade bombs than a year ago because of improvements in training, equipment and intelligence, the U.S. military said.
In the first three months of this year, 5 percent of the bombs planted across Afghanistan hit their marks, according to the Pentagon's Joint IED (improvised explosive devices) Defeat Organization. That's down from 10 to 12 percent over the same three-month period a year ago.
So far this year, 231 U.S. and other NATO forces have been killed in Afghanistan. That compares with 271 in the first six months of 2010.Distributed by MCT Information Services