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Tucson soldier dies in Kosovo on 21st birthday

A U.S. Army soldier serving on a NATO mission died Saturday at Camp Bondsteel in the Balkan country of Kosovo. The death of Spc. Robert W. Jones, 21, is being investigated by military authorities.

Details about Jones's death were not released by the Defense Department. Saturday, Jan. 6, was his birthday.

Jones, who grew up in Vail, was a military police working dog handler assigned to the 131st Military Working Dog Detachment, 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, based in Grafenwoehr, Germany.

Jones is survived by his wife, Charlee Delaossa Jones. The couple were married slightly more than two years, having wed the day after Christmas in 2015. Other family members include father Robert Jones and mother Jodie Westergaard, and siblings Riche Jones, Roxy Jones, Royal Jones, Landon Westergaard and Oscar Leon.

"Spc. Robert Jones was a remarkable soldier," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Searl, 709th Military Police Battalion commander. "He volunteered to serve his nation and we mourn his tragic loss. Spc. Jones and his family will always be members of the Warrior Battalion. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time."

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff until sunset on Wednesday to honor Jones's life. Flags will also be flown at half-staff on the day of his interment, Saturday, Jan. 27, Ducey's office said.

Jones enlisted in the Army in August 2015 and attended basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., followed by Advanced Individual Training at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas. He was assigned to the 18th Military Police Brigade in April 2016.

Jones' awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Army Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal (Kosovo) and German Marksmanship Badge.

U.S. and other NATO troops have been deployed in Kosovo for nearly two decades, serving as peacekeeping forces. The small nation declared independence from Serbia in 2008, after a 1999 bombing campaign forced Serbian troops to withdraw. The region — especially in the countries that made up the former Yugoslavia — is still riven by ethnic tensions.

Visitation for friends and family will be held Friday, Jan. 26, at Carillo's Tucson Mortuary, 204 S. Stone Ave., from 5-9 p.m. Internment will be in Holy Hope Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations in Robert's name to the Fisher House Foundation, which provides support to military families.

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Spc. Robert Jones