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Updated Sep 28, 2012, 3:18 pm Originally posted Sep 28, 2012, 12:47 pm
A Tucson soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Orion N. Sparks, was killed Wednesday in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said Friday.
Sparks, 29, and another soldier were killed in Pul-E Alam, Afghanistan, when an insurgent wearing a suicide vest detonated the bomb near their patrol.
The soldiers were serving with the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The Schweinfurt, Germany-based unit was deployed in Logar province in eastern Afghanistan.
Including Sparks' death, 52 troops with Southern Arizona connections have been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars—20 in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion of that country.
The other soldier who was killed in the incident was identified as Sgt. Jonathan A. Gollnitz, 28, of Lakehurst, N.J.
Both men were members of Anvil Troop, according to the 1st Squadron's Facebook page.
Sparks "touched the lives of many soldiers during his time in Anvil. He is remembered as a contagious optimist who was always in good spirits. Someone that could relate to soldiers on a personal level and helped guide them through life. Orion was an outstanding trainer of soldiers and a leader who was not afraid to get his hands dirty and lead from the front. A true NCO to the end. He was a cornerstone in Anvil Troop," said a statement posted by Lt. Col. Whit Wright, the 173rd Airborne's commander.
"Several other paratroopers were wounded, one severely, in the same incident," Wright wrote.