The Department of Defense identified the two U.S. soldiers on Sunday who were killed in action when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan as Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia and Pfc. Miguel Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois.
The soldiers were killed as they were conducting operations as part of NATO's Resolute Support Mission and were assigned to 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. The Taliban took credit for the IED attack.
They are the first U.S. service members to be killed in Afghanistan in 2020. Both soldiers were on their first combat deployment to Afghanistan. McLaughlin joined the Army in 2012 and is survived by his wife and four children. Villalon joined the Army in 2018 and his survived by his mother and father.
"When our Nation called for its best Airborne Combat Engineers to deploy into harm’s way, Staff Sgt. McLaughlin and Pfc. Villalon answered without hesitation. They lived their motto, ‘Essayons,’ and embodied the values of the All American Engineer," said Col. Art Sellers, Commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in a press release. "Their loved ones are now surrounded by a caring community offering comfort and assistance through this difficult time."
"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. They will be honored, mourned, but never forgotten and we are committed to taking care of their families for life," said 82nd Airborne Division Commander Maj. Gen. James Mingus.
McLaughlin and Villalon each received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.