BLOOMINGTON — A 2013 Normal Community High School graduate was among two U.S. soldiers killed in action Thursday in Afghanistan.
Josh Rodgers, 22, son of Kevin and Vondra Rodgers of Bloomington, competed in track and football at NCHS. The family was notified of his death Wednesday night, said Paul Thomasson, senior pastor of Gibson City Bible Church, who talked with Rodgers' grandfather.
The Defense Department does not release names of those killed in action until 24 hours after family notification.
One of Rodgers' NCHS coaches, track coach Bryan Thomas, said Thursday, “It's a sad day for our school and our community" — a sentiment shared by dozens of people who have commented on the story on The Pantagraph's Facebook page.
He said Rodgers had a work ethic that “was second to none.”
“He was really quiet. You could almost miss him,” said Thomas. “He led by example in both football and track.”
Thomas also noted that the hardworking Rodgers “wanted to be an Army Ranger and he did it.”
His football coach, Wes Temples, echoed Thomas' description of Rodgers as a hardworking, quiet leader.
“Josh was a tremendous kid,” Temples said. “When I hear his name, what comes to mind is how hard he worked no matter what it was, whether it was football or school. He did things the right way.”
Temples said hearing about Rodgers' death was “heartbreaking and incredibly sad. … You feel for his family.”
He said “serving our country” was “an honorable and brave thing.”
He and another soldier were killed and a third was wounded when they came under attack during a raid against insurgents in Nangarhar Province, according to the Defense Department. They were conducting an operation with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces at the time, said the department.
The target of the raid was a prison where the Islamic State kept civilian prisoners, said Attaulla Khogyani, a spokesperson for the Nangarhar governor's office.
Nangarhar Province is where the U.S. military dropped the largest non-nuclear weapon used in combat — known as a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb or “the Mother of All Bombs” — on a cave-and-tunnel complex in mid-April as part of the ongoing battle against ISIS. The province is in the northeast part of Afghanistan and borders Pakistan.
U.S. officials have refused to comment on battle casualties suffered by the Islamic State, but Afghan officials have said 94 militants were killed in the bombing and another 40 were killed in Wednesday night's operation.
Nearly 2,400 U.S. military personnel have died in Afghanistan and related regions since U.S. forces entered Afghanistan in 2001. The most recent deaths bring to three the number of U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan this year. All three deaths occurred in Nangarhar this month.
“The fight against ISIS-K is important for the world, but sadly, it is not without sacrifice,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan said in a statement. “On behalf of all U.S. Forces and our coalition partners, I offer our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and fellow service members of our fallen comrades.”