This past Saturday, two U.S. military personnel were killed after a vehicle holding the soldiers was struck by an IED (improvised explosive device) while in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. The soldiers have been identified as 21-year-old Miguel Villalon from Aurora, Illinois and Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia.
The news was released via a Twitter posting by the City of Aurora. According to a spokesperson for the Taliban, they have taken credit for the attack that killed the soldiers.
The posting on Twitter stated the following condolences:
“Tonight, the Aurora community mourns the heartbreaking loss of Miguel Vallalon, 21. He was one of two U.S. service members who passed away today while serving in Afghanistan. A former student at East Aurora High School, Miguel was proud to serve in the United States Army.”
The mayor of the city of Aurora, Richard Irvin, also expressed the sorrow associated with the loss of this American hero. Being an Army veteran himself, the passing of Villalon hit home particularly hard.
Mayor Irvin released the following statement regarding the fallen soldier:
“Our prayers and condolences are with the Villalon family during this tragic time. Miguel was a young soldier with dreams for the future and a desire to make a difference in the world today. Much like all of us who have left from our hometown of Aurora to serve our country, our goal is to do our job well and return to our family and friends. “
The mayor’s statement continued, expressing how when one of the city’s heroes doesn’t make it home it weighs heavily on the entire community:
“Sadly, Miguel made the ultimate sacrifice as he protected our freedom from the front lines. The City of Lights shines much dimmer because of this loss. We’ll stand with his family and provide support. Godspeed, young soldier.”
East Aurora School District 131, which hosts the soldier’s high school where he graduated just a few years prior to his passing, also chimed in on his sacrifice:
“We are grateful to Miguel for his courage and service to our nation. We extend our sincere condolences to Miguel’s family, friends, and all those who loved him.”
The forces responsible for the soldiers’ deaths have been a growing problem in the region where they were active. Currently, the Taliban now control or hold significant stances in over half of Afghanistan.
Militants within the country are continuing to stage attacks on nearly a daily basis, targeting both Afghan and U.S. forces. All the while, these attacks are taking place while representatives from the Taliban are engaged in peace talks with the United States. The attacks that have been perpetrated by the Taliban forces have taken the lives of numerous Afghan civilians though crossfire and roadside bombs.
This latest incident within the country follows two months after two U.S. service members were killed when their helicopter crashed in eastern Logar province. While preliminary reports by military intelligence indicate that it wasn’t enemy fire responsible for the crash, the Taliban did claim they were responsible.
Saturday’s news struck a chord with the state of Illinois collectively, as merely days earlier, 23-year-old Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr. of Hazel Crest was reported as killed on January 5.
Mayfield Jr. was killed while facing a terror attack that struck against United States military personnel and also Kenyan forces while stationed in Kenya.
To date, nearly 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. Last year, there was a near average of two U.S. soldiers killed within the country each month, bringing back a casualty high that hasn’t been seen since 2015. Nearly 2,000 international forces have a presence within the country, working to train Afghan security forces and aiding to combat terrorism within Afghanistan.
On Sunday, we also learned of a fallen detective in Los Angeles.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detective, 41-year-old Amber Leist, was killed in an accident, off-duty Sunday morning in the area of Valley Village.
The 12-year veteran was reportedly at a red light waiting to make a left turn. An elderly lady was crossing the street in the crosswalk in front of Leist’s car and fell down. Without hesitation, Leist put her car in park, got out, and assisted the elderly lady in getting across the street.
As she walked back to her car after safely delivering the woman to the other side of the road, she was struck by a vehicle.
It was reported that the driver pulled over and tried to render aide to Leist, who was badly injured. She was transported to the hospital but died of her injuries.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said this on Twitter,
Today, @LASDHQ is grieving. We are shocked/stunned by the sudden loss of a family member. Amber Leist, a @WHDLASD detective, and 12 year veteran of LASD, was fatally struck by a vehicle in @LACity while assisting others. She was an outstanding detective who lead by example. pic.twitter.com/PcNIlAfTz8
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) January 13, 2020
Lead by example indeed. A 12-year veteran who still stopped her car, off-duty, no less, to assist a woman in crossing the street. That is a true, bona fide hero.
“She was an outstanding detective,” Sheriff Villanueva said during a news conference. “She would lead by example through her act of kindness.” The Sheriff added, “It’s unfortunate. God had a better plan for her and she was called home.”
Leist is survived by her parents and two sons, 17 and 20-years-old. The eldest is on active duty in the US Navy, and Sheriff Villanueva told reporters that they had been able to reach him to advise him of the loss of his mother.
— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) January 13, 2020
Leist began her career with LA County Sheriffs working as a north county corrections officer. She also served as a deputy in Lancaster as well as a school resource officer. She was promoted to detective during the last five years spent with the West Hollywood station.
Sheriff Villanueva has relieved personnel at West Hollywood station to offer them time for bereavement. The department has also assigned a psychologist to the location.
“It’s a tough day for our department,” the Sheriff said. “We’re going to get through this as a family.”
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Police officers lined the route for the procession of Leist’s body, which was escorted from Cedar Sinai Hospital to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.
Condolences were expressed all over Twitter.
The National Fraternal Order of Police tweeted,
“A #hero tragically lost her life today in the service of her #community. Please keep the friends and family of detective Amber Leist in your thoughts and prayers.”
A photograph of deputies standing up and lining a parking garage was posted by LA County Sheriffs. The caption read,
“We line up with a heavy heart to ensure the safe passage of our fallen sister, @WHDLASD Deputy Amber Leist.”
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said,
“LASD Detective Amber Leist represented the very best within our profession and showed her dedication to others on or off-duty. She, without hesitation, assisted someone in need. We stand with her family, her friends, and the LASD tonight.”
LASD Lancaster Station posted,
“A tragic loss today, as Detective Amber Leist lost her life after being struck by a car. Detective Leist was off duty & helping someone across the street. She was a long time Lancaster patrol deputy. Please keep her 2 boys in your prayers. We will miss you friend. #LASD #AV411”
In response, a California leadership, mentorship, and training company called Harbinger Horizon, LLC said,
“A reminder of how phenomenal and noble the profession is. Not because of what she was- a deputy, but who she was: someone who is always there when needed most, not matter when or where, even when one isn’t even called upon to act. Her final act was #love.”
On that beautiful note, rest in peace, Deputy Leist. We’ll take it from here.
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