A soldier from central Illinois was among four soldiers killed last Thursday in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said Tuesday.
Sgt. Dean R. Shaffer, 23, of Pekin, died in Helmand Province when the Black Hawk helicopter he was in crashed. Also killed was Chief Warrant Officer Nicholas S. Johnson, 27, of San Diego, Chief Warrant Officer Don C. Viray, 25, of Waipahu, Hawaii, and Sgt. Chris J. Workman, 33, of Boise, Idaho.
All were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, the Department of Defense said.
The men were supporting a medevac chopper on a mission to pick up Afghan policemen wounded by a bomb. It's unclear why their chopper crashed. There were thunderstorms and low visibility in the area, but it's currently not known if that was a factor.
The Taliban claimed to have used a "rocket," to shoot down the aircraft, the Stars and Stripes military publication reported, but U.S. officials dispute that claim.
Shaffer was a 2007 graduate of Pekin Community High School, near Peoria, the Pekin Times reported.
At a remembrance ceremony at Kandahar Air Field on Monday, he was remembered as a fearless soldier.
"His mentality was, it don’t matter what’s going on, he’s coming to get you," said his friend, Spc. Eric Polaski.
Shaffer was the second graduate of Pekin Community High School to die in Afghanistan in the last six months. U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jordan Bastean, 19, was killed last Oct. 23 while on combat duty in Helmand Province.