INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Four soldiers with an Indiana-based
National Guard unit were killed in Afghanistan and a fifth was injured
when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb as they were working to clear
a supply route of the improvised bombs, guard officials said Saturday.
Adjutant General Martin Umbarger said the four members of the
Valparaiso-based 713th Engineer Company died Thursday morning in
southern Afghanistan. He said all of the men were combat engineers who
specialized in clearing major supply routes.
occurred as their vehicle traveled along a road, scouting for signs of
roadside bombs and other potential problems convoys might encounter as
the move supplies in the decade-long war in Afghanistan, Umbarger said.
mission is to keep the major supply routes clear of all obstacles for
the convoys. And what that means is they're the first ones to go out to
make sure the route can be used, so it's a very important mission — but
it's also extremely dangerous," he told The Associated Press.
The four men
killed were identified as: Staff Sgt. Jonathan M. Metzger, 32, of
Indianapolis, Spc. Brian J. Leonhardt, 21, of Merrillville, Ind., Spc.
Robert J. Tauteris Jr., 44, of Hamlet, Ind., and Spc. Christopher A.
Patterson, 20, of Aurora, Ill.
soldier injured in the blast, Pvt. Douglas Rachowicz, 29, of Hammond,
Ind., was initially treated at a military base hospital in Kandahar
before being airlifted to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl,
Germany, Umbarger said.
uncle, Ed Tauteris of North Judson, Ind., said the family has been
devastated by the death.
He said his
nephew, who grew up in rural northwestern Indiana's Starke County and
graduated from North Judson High School, was a loving, attentive father
to his two sons, Robert Tauteris III and Matthew.
great father who loved his kids, took very good care of them. He was a
great provider. He'd work seven days a week, come home and take his kids
fishing, hunting, to baseball, stuff like that," he said.
69, said his nephew reenlisted in the National Guard after his
21-year-old son, Robert III joined up and was sent to Afghanistan. He
said his nephew had hoped he might be able to keep his son safe during
Robert Tauteris III, who was still in Afghanistan when his father was
killed, accompanied his father's body back to the U.S.
home with his dad. That poor kid. I feel so bad for him," he said.
said the four soldiers' deaths were the greatest number of Indiana
guards since March 2005, when four members of the Indianapolis-based
76th Infantry Brigade died when a land mine exploded under their
military vehicle about 30 miles south of the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Daniels said in a statement that Umbarger called him Saturday morning to
tell him of the deaths. The governor said he's praying for the soldiers'
" I received
from the adjutant general the news a person in my job dreads the most,
that we have lost soldiers in combat. I had begun to hope that I had
received the last such phone call, and cannot convey the sadness which
it instantly brought," Daniels said.
are joined with those of millions of Hoosiers who will hear this
terrible news with deep grief but also with gratitude for the courage of
those we have lost, and pride that we come from a state that produces
men such as these," he said.
said the four soldiers' families were informed Friday of the deaths, and
the last family members were told the news Friday night. He said he's
"humbled and honored" by the courage of the nation's service members and
said the sacrifices of the four men won't be forgotten.
like to extend my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of
these brave citizen-soldiers," he said in a statement. "We will honor
their sacrifice and always remember them."