Two soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade were killed on July 5 by small-arms fire while on patrol in the Watapor Valley of Afghanistan, the Army announced in a news release.

Memorial services for Spc. Christopher Honaker of Havelock, N.C., and Pvt. Joseph Miracle of Ortonville, Mich., will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at the post chapel in Vicenza, Italy.

The soldiers served with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment. Honaker, 23, and Miracle, 22, were deployed with Task Force Bayonet in support of the NATO International Security Assistance Force.

In their respective hometowns, friends and family members said the soldiers were proud of their service.

Honaker, whose sister is a soldier now serving in Germany, was raised in a military family.

According to the Havelock News, Honaker was born at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in 1983.

His father is a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant.

Honaker was described as someone known by just about everyone in the small eastern North Carolina town of Havelock.

“He was a very personable young man — very kind, hard-working and polite. He seemed pleased about the Army and was doing very well,” family friend Sue Boyer told the Havelock News.

“Losing Chris is as close to losing one of your own as it could possibly be,” added Shelia Blazer, another friend.

Before joining the Army, Miracle was a standout running back for his high school football team.

His sister says he loved physical challenges and was naturally drawn to the airborne.

“I think he missed the camaraderie of the football team, and he loved the physical aspect of it,” sister Jeannette Miracle-Leshan told the Detroit Free Press.

“He chose the airborne right there in the recruiter’s office.”

Miracle-Leshan told the paper that her brother was home for a visit in April before shipping out to Afghanistan. Miracle, the youngest of seven children, was doing what he was prepared to do, his sister said.

“He was very proud of what he was doing, and we were proud of him, too,” Leshan told the Free Press. “We believe he died a hero.”

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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