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The Pentagon confirmed Sunday that a U.S. soldier killed Sept. 1 in Afghanistan was a member of the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, deployed from Vicenza, Italy.

1st Lt. Derek S. Hines, 25, was killed near the town of Baylough when insurgents using small arms ambushed his unit’s patrol, military official said.

The clash came in the final weeks before Afghans go to the polls Sept. 18 for a crucial nationwide parliamentary election. Violence has flared up throughout the summer, with U.S. military commanders saying insurgents were bent on disrupting the upcoming vote. More than 1,000 people — including suspected Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces — have been killed in the past six months.

Hines, of Newburyport, Mass., was remembered by friends and family as talented, smart and tenacious. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare,” his father, State Police Sgt. Steven Hines, told The Associated Press. “He always said he was fine. He always said, ‘Dad, don’t worry about me.’ That’s why I always thought he was coming home.”

“He had been in so many battles and never complained. He did more than I’ve ever thought of doing in just his 25 years.”

Hines deployed to Afghanistan from Italy in March. He was a West Point graduate with plans to enroll in Harvard Business School after leaving the Army, family members told AP.

Soldiers from Vicenza’s Southern European Task Force (Airborne) 173rd Airborne Regiment have been at the fore in Afghanistan since arriving this spring. At least 12 Vicenza-based soldiers have been killed since SETAF took over the mission March 15.

The U.S. military force in Afghanistan has been boosted to around 19,000 servicemembers in anticipation of the elections.

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