Bodies of three N.C. National Guard soldiers killed in a suicide-bomb attack in Afghanistan have been returned to the United States.
Killed in the attack Monday were Sgt. Thomas Butler IV, 25, of Leland; Sgt. Jeremy Hardison, 23, of Brown’s Summit; and Sgt. Donna Johnson, 29, of Raeford. They were members of the Guard’s 514th Military Police Co., based in the Greenville suburb of Winterville, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
They were deployed in August on a mission to train Afghan security forces in conjunction with international troops.
They died Monday morning in Khost, about 100 miles southeast of Kabul near the Pakistan border, when a man detonated a vest packed with explosives outside a crowded market, authorities said. Four Afghan police officers and at least a half-dozen Afghani civilians were also killed in the attack, which appeared aimed at NATO security forces patrolling the city.
Three other members of the unit were injured, the N.C. National Guard reported.
“They were the embodiment of citizen soldiers who put everything on hold to go in harm’s way for all of us,” Maj. Gen. Gregory Lusk of N.C. National Guard, said in a statement. “They will be remembered and sorely missed.”
Johnson had been deployed to Iraq twice and Hardison once. This was Butler’s first deployment, the N.C. Guard said.
Only one other N.C. National Guard member has been lost in Afghanistan. First Lt. Ashley White-Stumpf, 24, from a Goldsboro unit, was killed in Oct. 2011 by an improvised bomb near Kandahar. Four Air Guard members from the Charlotte region were killed in the crash of a C-130 in July while fighting wildfires in South Dakota.