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VICENZA, Italy — Americans and Italians gathered at Caserma Ederle on Thursday to remember the 14th soldier from the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) to die serving his country in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. John G. Doles died Sept. 30 in Shah Wali during a battle with insurgents. He was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment. The company was originally based in Paktika province along with the rest of the Red Devils, but was sent south to work with other elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the more restive Kandahar province.

Doles joined the battalion shortly before it deployed to Iraq in 2003 and was among those who jumped into the northern part of the country. He was serving his first tour in Afghanistan.

Doles, 29, is survived by his wife, Heather, and two children, Logan and Breanna.

“Throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, not a day went by without John saying something about his family,” Sgt. Benjamin Bickford told those gathered in the base chapel. His remarks were provided by the base’s public affairs office.

“John was a friend you could only hope to have just once in a lifetime.”

According to a release from the SETAF public affairs office, Doles lead a team that engaged an enemy force attempting to ambush his platoon on the night of his death. Company leaders are recommending him for a Silver Star for his efforts. He had already earned more than a dozen medals and honors for his work with the battalion in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bickford said the squad leader was “a model NCO. He put the welfare of his soldiers first and everything else second. Junior leaders looked up to Staff Sergeant Doles, because he wouldn’t tell you [to do] anything he wouldn’t do.”

Doles was born in Phoenix. He and three siblings were brought up in Mojave, Calif., and Chelsea, Okla. A memorial service is planned in Chelsea on Tuesday.

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