Afghanistan: Remembering the fallen of 2019
By STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 1, 2020
Note: This article has been corrected.
Twenty-two American service members were killed in Afghanistan in 2019, the highest number since NATO combat operations in the country ended at the end of 2014.
Since then, the United States has continued a separate counterterrorism mission.
All but four of the military fatalities in Afghanistan in 2019 were combat-related.
The deaths came as Washington held direct peace talks with the Taliban aimed at the ending the war, the U.S.’s longest, throughout most of the year. The talks are ongoing.
Roughly 13,000 American troops were deployed to Afghanistan at the start of 2020.
Since the war began in 2001, some 2,400 U.S. servicemembers have been killed in the country, while more than 20,000 have been wounded.
Army Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, 26, died Jan. 17 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from small-arms fire wounds he received in Badghis province in northwest Afghanistan.
The Texas native was assigned to Company A of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and served as a fire team leader.
Meddock is survived by his wife, Stevie, who was pregnant with their first child at the time of his death.
His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Joint Service Commendation for Combat and Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters.
“Sgt. Cameron Meddock is one of America’s most precious sons,” said Col. Brandon Tegtmeier, commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment. “The entire nation should strive to emulate the warrior, patriot and husband that Cameron was.”
Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua “Zach” Beale, 32, was killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province on Jan. 22.
Beale, from Carrollton, Va., was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, at Fort Bragg, N.C.
He enlisted in the Army in 2011, after graduating from Old Dominion University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
He is survived by his wife. Lindsey Christine Beale, and two daughters, Leah and Grace.
Beale was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class and posthumously awarded the Bronze Star — his third — as well as the Purple Heart and a Meritorious Service Medal.
“Joshua was a smart, talented and dedicated member of 3rd [Special Forces Group] and the special operations community,” Col. Nathan Prussian, commander of 3rd SFG. “He will be greatly missed by everyone who had the fortunate opportunity to know him.”
Army Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, of Cortez, Colo., died March 22 after being wounded during combat in northern Kunduz province.
He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Carson, Colo., and died alongside Spc. Joseph P. Collette.
Lindsay is survived by his wife, Sarah Unger Lindsay, and four daughters.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star with four oak leaf clusters, the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster.
“Will was one of the best in our formation, with more than a decade of service in the Regiment at all levels of noncommissioned officer leadership,” Col. Lawrence Ferguson, the 10th SFG (A) commander, said in a statement.
Army Sgt. Joseph P. Collette, 29, of Lancaster, Ohio, died March 22 of wounds sustained in combat operations in northern Kunduz province.
He was assigned to the 242nd Ordnance Battalion, 71st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, out of Fort Carson, Colo., and posthumously promoted to sergeant.
Collette had married his wife, Caela Marie Collette, in December 2018 before his first overseas deployment to Afghanistan.
He was “the most genuine person you’ll ever meet,” she said.
Joseph Collette’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Badge and the Senior Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge.
Marine Sgt. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, was one of three Marines killed April 8 by a car bomb outside Bagram Airfield.
Originally from Locust Valley, N.Y., Hendriks was assigned to the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, and served as an infantry machine gunner.
Hendriks joined the Marines in October 2012. His awards include the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.
Hendriks was promoted posthumously to sergeant.
He was “the perfect son,” Erik Hendriks, his father, told the New York Post. “I am the proudest dad on Earth.”
Marine Staff Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa., died April 8 in a car bomb explosion outside Bagram Airfield.
He was assigned to the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division and was on his second overseas deployment.
He was one of three Marines killed by the blast just days before they were to return to the United States.
Hines’ awards and decorations include a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, two Iraq Campaign Medals and a Meritorious Mast.
Hines was pomoted posthumously to staff sergeant.
Hines’ sister, Meghan, told the York Daily Record that her brother was “always the first person to step up when he knew something was wrong,” and that he was her hero, regardless of whether he wore a uniform.
Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, 43, was killed April 8 by a car bomb outside Bagram Airfield.
The infantry rifleman was assigned to the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, and was a fireman in his civilian career.
He is survived by his wife, Shannon Metcalf Slutman, and three daughters.
Slutman’s awards and decorations include two Iraq Campaign Medals, a Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal and four certificates of commendation.
Slutman was “truly one of New York City’s bravest” and was decorated for bravery in 2014 after rescuing an unconscious woman from a burning building in the South Bronx, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
Army Spc. Miguel L. Holmes, 22, died in eastern Nangarhar province from wounds sustained in a noncombat incident May 6.
Holmes, from Hinesville, Ga., was assigned to 1st Battalion, 118th Field Artillery Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Savannah, Ga.
The 118th is a unit of the Georgia Army National Guard.
Holmes is survived by three sisters, two brothers, two grandparents and a large extended family.
Army Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, was killed June 25 by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province.
From Trumansburg, N.Y., Johnston was assigned to the 79th Ordnance Battalion, 71st Ordnance Group, at Fort Hood, Texas. He entered active-duty military service in July 2013 as an explosive ordnance disposal specialist. ,
His awards and decorates include a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, an Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
Johnston and his wife, Krista Johnston, were expecting a baby girl at the time of his death.
“I love you husband, forever and always; you better watch over me and our baby girl,” his wife wrote on Facebook.
Army Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, was killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province on June 25.
Riley, born in Heilbronn, Germany, while his father served there, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, at Fort Carson,Colo.
He was on his sixth overseas deployment and died alongside Sgt. James Johnston.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, five Army Commendation Medals, the Special Forces tab, the Ranger tab and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
“He was doing what he loved to do. He died for our country,” Riley’s cousin, Janeal Murchison, told Fox 2 St. Louis.
Elliott J. Robbins
Army Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Robbins, 31, a Green Beret medical sergeant from Utah, died June 30 from noncombat injuries in southern Helmand province.
Robbins was born in San Diego and enlisted as an infantryman out of high school. He was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, Colo.
Robbins is survived by his wife, Vickie, and son, Elliott.
His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal with combat device and one oak leaf cluster.
“A skilled soldier with three combat deployments, Robbins will always be remembered,” said Col. Lawrence G. Ferguson, 10th Group commander at the time.
Army Sgt. Maj. James “Ryan” Sartor, 40, died July 13 from injuries sustained by enemy fire in northern Faryab province.
The Texas native was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), out of Fort Carson, Colo.
He is survived by his wife Deanna and children Stryder, Grace and Garrett.
Sartor’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star with three oak leaf clusters, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Joint Service Commendation Medal.
“Ryan was a beloved warrior who epitomized the quiet professional,” said Col. Brian R. Rauen, 10th Group commander. “He led his soldiers from the front and his presence will be terribly missed.”
Army Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago, died July 29 after being shot by an Afghan soldier at a military camp in southern Uruzgan province.
He was assigned to the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Nance was killed alongside Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer.
Nance had only been in Afghanistan two weeks before he died.
“He died protecting our freedoms. He died a hero,” Nance’s cousin Trevor Harris said at his funeral.
Army Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, died July 29 after an Afghan solider opened fire at a base in southern Uruzgan province.
The Ohio native was assigned to the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Kreischer is survived by his wife, Grace, whom he married in January 2019, and was pregnant with his son.
“If I die in the combat zone for America, I do not call it a tragedy, I call it glory,” Kreischer wrote two years before his death.
Army Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, was one of two Green Berets killed Aug. 21 in northern Faryab province by small-arms fire.
DeLeon-Figueroa was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group and posthumously promoted to master sergeant.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal with “V” device for valor and Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Luis is survived by three daughters, according to a GoFundMe page set up after his death.
“Luis was a father, son, grandson, brother and best friend to many,” the page said.
Army Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, of La Puente, Calif., was killed during a raid alongside Afghan special forces in southern Faryab province on Aug. 21.
He was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and died with fellow Green Beret Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa.
Gonzalez spent 17 years in the U.S. military. He was a Marine before joining the Army and eventually serving as a Special Forces engineer.
He had been previously wounded in combat.
Gonzalez was posthumously promoted to master sergeant and awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. His other awards include two Bronze Stars with “V” device for valor and three Army Commendation Medals.
He is survived by his wife, Brenda, and two children.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Ard, 31, died of wounds received in combat in southern Zabul province on Aug. 29.
The Idaho native was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces (Airborne), at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and was a communications sergeant.
Ard left behind a pregnant wife, Mary, and a 3-year-old daughter, Reagan.
“My heart has a hole so big, I can hardly stand it,” Bruce Ard, Dustin’s father, said. “He was the finest young man I have ever known. Not because he was my son, but because of the person he is.”
Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, died in a Sept. 5 suicide blast in Kabul.
He was assigned to the 82nd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
President Donald Trump cited Ortiz’s death when he halted peace negotiations with the Taliban that had spanned much of 2019.
Ortiz is survived by his wife, Legana Aponte, two sons and a daughter.
“He was always happy, a tremendous friend; he never said no,” said Miguel Otero, who had been friends with Ortiz for over 30 years.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, was killed Sept. 16 by small-arms fire in central Wardak province.
The Special Forces communications sergeant was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and was on his fourth combat deployment.
Griffin was born in Panama and enlisted in the Army in 2004, when he was 25.
He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, adding to a previous Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal.
“He was a father, he was a husband, he was a son, he was a Green Beret and he was an American hero,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said of Griffin.
Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr., 25, was killed in a helicopter crash Nov. 20. The incident happened in eastern Logar province.
Fuchigami was assigned to 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star.
He and Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle were providing security to ground troops when the incident occurred. Knadle also died.
Fuchigami, who was born in Hawaii, is survived by his wife, McKenzie Norman, who he married shortly before his deployment.
Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, was killed in a helicopter crash Nov. 20, while providing security to ground troops in eastern Logar province.
The Texas native was assigned to 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, and was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star.
Knadle is survived by his wife Silkey Knadle, his five-year-old daughter Starling and his 15-year-old stepson Eason Bertone.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble, 33, was killed in a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province on Dec. 23.
The New Jersey native was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Eglin Air Force. Fla.
Goble is survived by his daughter, Zoey, and partner, Jennifer Albuquerque.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star.
“Sgt. 1st Class Michael Goble represented the best values of our Armed Forces and of New Jersey — dedication, fearlessness and excellence,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said in a joint statement.
Correction: A previous version of this story contained an incorrect spelling of Starling Knadle's name, and an incorrect name for Will Lindsay's wife. Also, the ranks of Benjamin Hines and Robert Hendriks were updated to reflect posthumous promotions.
Army Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, 26, died on Jan. 17, 2019, at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from small-arms fire wounds he received in Badghis province in the northwest of Afghanistan.
Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, poses for a selfie from the cab of his unarmored pick-up truck while on a convoy through Kabul, Afghanistan.
Barreto, who was promoted posthumously, died Sept. 5, 2019, when a Taliban suicide bomb tore through his convoy.