(See photos of the memorial ceremony at end of story)

BERMEL, Afghanistan — Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade said a heartfelt goodbye as two of their own were honored in a moving ceremony in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, a day after Thanksgiving.

On Nov. 12, Capt. David A. Boris, 30, and Sgt. Adrian E. Hike, 26, were traveling in a convoy on a resupply mission to Combat Outpost Malekshay, a remote U.S. base less than three miles from the Pakistani border, when their vehicle hit and detonated a roadside bomb.

At the ceremony, commanders and fellow soldiers grieved openly for the first combat losses to come to their unit, the “Anvil” Troop of the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment. The troop is attached to the 173rd’s 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment.

“Capt. Boris loved his men and he would not have had it any other way but to have died with them,” said Capt. Joey Hutto, a special operations soldier. “From his death, we are reminded of the danger of our mission.”

Spc. Jason Daniels, 23, and from Cincinnati, said of Hike, “Before we got here, he told all of us that we were going to be all right.”

The deaths are the first for the squadron, but bring to 26 the number of soldiers the 173rd has lost in Afghanistan since deploying in May. That matches the combined total of the unit’s previous two deployments — in Iraq in 2003-04, when the brigade lost nine troops, and in Afghanistan during 2005-06 when it lost 17.

“It was just an ordinary, regular patrol,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Reyes, 24, from Manteca, Calif., who was traveling in the lead Humvee that day.

Another soldier in the Schweinfurt, Germany-based Troop A, Staff Sgt. James Pollard, said Boris was the type of leader a soldier respected.

“He would be right up front there with you,” he said. “He got to know our wives, he got to know our children.”

Reyes chimed in: “Out of an 80-man troop, he knew all of our names and all of our children’s names.”

Pollard said, “Every time we had a troop function at my house, my son would always want to go and play with Hike.”

Boris is survived by his wife of eight years, Jaime.

On the morning of the bombing, Reyes had breakfast with Hike, whom he described as always ready to go out on patrol. He said Hike was in an upbeat mood that morning, adding that it was rare for anything to get Hike down.

Hike, a graduate of Sac Community High School in Sac, Iowa, had just been promoted to sergeant. He received a Purple Heart for combat in Iraq. He is survived by his parents and four brothers.

According to an NBC-affiliate television station in Cedar Rapids, Hike’s family issued a statement, saying, in part, “It was not like him to back down from any challenges, but instead, he did what he had to do and always gave one hundred percent.”

Lt. Col. Michael Fenzel, commander of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, told Stars and Stripes, “It feels like we lost more members of our family. Now we have to move on together — that is the only way we can move past this.”

Also at Friday’s memorial ceremony were Col. Charles A. Preysler, commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade, and Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, deputy commanding general for U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

So far 2007 has been the deadliest year on record for U.S. troops since the 2001 invasion, according to the Department of Defense.

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