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Pentagon identifies Illinois, Virginia soldiers killed in roadside bombing in Afghanistan

Pfc. Miguel Villalon, Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin

Pfc. Miguel Villalon, Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin

JOLIET, Ill. — The Pentagon identified on Sunday the two soldiers killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan Saturday, Jan. 11.

Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia, and Pfc. Miguel Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois, were killed in the bombing, the Department of Defense said in a statement. They died Saturday when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in the southern province of Kandahar.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident, which is currently under investigation.

The soldiers were conducting operations as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, according to a statement released Saturday. The attack also injured two service members.

McLaughlin and Villalon were assigned to 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This was the first combat deployment for both, according to the 82nd Airborne Division.

McLaughlin is survived by his wife and four children. Villalon is survived by his parents.

“These paratroopers represent the very best of our Nation and our Army. Three-time volunteers, they went when our Nation called and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Maj. Gen. James Mingus said in the statement. “They will be honored, mourned, but never forgotten and we are committed to taking care of their families for life.”

Between 12,000 and 13,000 U.S. troops are currently serving in Afghanistan as part of a U.S.-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces.

There have been more than 2,400 total deaths of U.S. service members since the start of America’s longest war in 2001. Last year was the deadliest in five years for the U.S. in Afghanistan, with 23 service members killed during operations in the country in 2019.

The latest reported casualties come as the U.S. has restarted peace talks with the Taliban.

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