Two American soldiers, including one from Cortez, Colorado, were killed Friday while supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said in a news release.
Both died after being wounded in combat operations in Kunduz province, and both were based at Fort Carson, Colorado, the news release said Saturday.
They were identified as Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, of Cortez, and Spc. Joseph P. Collette, 29, of Lancaster, Ohio.
Lindsay, a Green Beret, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, Airborne. Collette was assigned to the 242nd Ordnance Battalion, 71st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group.
“Will was one of the best in our formation, with more than a decade of service in the Regiment at all levels of noncommissioned officer leadership,” Col. Lawrence Ferguson, 10th Group commander, stated in a news release emailed to The Journal. “We will focus now on supporting his family and honoring his legacy and sacrifice.”
“(His special forces) family is deeply saddened at the loss,” Ferguson said.
Lindsay was born on Aug. 26, 1985, in Cortez, and enlisted in the Army on July 7, 2004, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command said in the news release. After training and Basic Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Lindsay completed the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to 10th Special Forces Group in July 2006.
Lindsay is survived by his wife and four daughters, said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, public affairs director of the Army Special Operations Command.
Attempts to reach Lindsay’s family were unsuccessful this weekend. His parents, Grant and Tamara, own the Flower Cottage nursery in Cortez. The company’s voicemail said the business was closed because of a death in the family.
Lindsay served five tours to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn as well as deployments to Tajikistan in 2016 for a counter-narcotics mission, Bymer said.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, a Purple Heart, the NATO Medal, the Special Forces Tab, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge and the Chilean Airborne Wings.
Collette was a nine-year Army veteran and on his first Afghanistan deployment. He earned the Army Achievement Medal four times and had recently married.
Details about the battle in Kunduz province have not been released, and the incident was under investigation, the Department of Defense said.
The deaths come amid recent insurgent Taliban attacks and negotiations to end the 17-year war.
According to the Associated Press, an Afghan lawmaker from Kunduz, Abdul Wodood Payman, reported heavy fighting overnight Friday in the Kunduz neighborhood of Taluka, where jet fighters roared overhead and bombings could be heard.
The Taliban have often targeted the city of Kunduz, the provincial capital of Kunduz province, most recently in a predawn attack in February on an army base on the city’s outskirts that killed 26 members of the Afghan security forces.
On Saturday, the New York Times reported that at least 14 civilians, including women and children, were killed in an airstrike in northern Kunduz province, according to Afghan officials. At least four Afghan soldiers also were killed.
A spokeswoman for the American military confirmed the attack but blamed the Taliban, the New York Times said.
“We are fighting in a complex environment and this firefight is a prime example of the challenges Afghan and coalition forces face every day,” said Sgt. 1st Class Debra Richardson. “The Taliban were hiding in civilian homes and maneuvered in and out of compounds without any concern for the families living inside.”
Four U.S. soldiers have been killed this year in Afghanistan as Washington has stepped up efforts to end the 17-year war. Last year, 13 U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan.
About 14,000 U.S. forces are in Afghanistan to support Afghan forces who face a resurgent Taliban, the AP said. U.S. troops also face the Islamic State affiliate, which has attempted to expand its influence in Afghanistan even though its Islamic state crumbled in Syria and Iraq.
The Pentagon has been developing plans to withdraw up to half the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and stepping up efforts and having the U.S. negotiate with the Taliban.