Phoenix soldier killed in Aghanistan
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Phoenix soldier killed in Aghanistan

25-year-old victim of improvised explosive device

WASHINGTON — A Phoenix soldier died in Afghanistan on Friday from wounds he suffered in an insurgent attack on his unit while on patrol in the eastern Khowst Province.

Army Spc. Michael D. Elm, 25, was on foot when rebels detonated an improvised explosive device in the attack, the Department of Defense announced late Tuesday.

Elm had been in the Army a little more than 2.5 years and was in his first tour in Afghanistan at time of his death.

The Greenway High School graduate was one of five children, said his aunt, Debbie Samson, who spoke Wednesday on behalf of the family. She said everyone loved him.

“He was very bright and analytical,” said Samson. “He was just a good guy all around.”

In high school, Elm had active roles in clubs such as DECA where Samson said he won second place in an international competition for an advertisement campaign.

He later attended the University of Maryland where he served as the school’s Terrapin mascot – a fact he kept secret from his classmates, she said.

Elm enlisted in the Army in February 2009 and was stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., four months later. Samson said joining the Army was something Elm just wanted to do.

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Elm was an infantryman assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, according to the Army.

He was deployed to Afghanistan as part of an operation in the Tirzaye district of Khowst, on the border with Pakistan.

The U.S. Central Command said Operation Steel Rain, of which he was part, aims to disrupt cells of the Haqqani network, a criminal organization the straddles the Afghan-Pakistani border and has been linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida.

The Defense Department said that as of Wednesday, 1,698 U.S. soldiers had died in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and another 14,534 had been wounded there.

Elm had been awarded the Army Achievement Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terror Medal and the Army Service Ribbon, the Pentagon said.

He also received the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star and, posthumously, the Purple Heart.

A service will be held at Fort Knox and a memorial service will also be held by his unit in Afghanistan, the Defense Department said in a news release. No date had been set for either service.

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U.S. Department of Defense

Army Spc. Michael D. Elm, 25, of Phoenix, was killed Friday by in improvised explosive device during an insurgent attack in Khowst Province in Afghanistan, where he was serving his first deployment.