Just weeks before Clarence Williams III, 23, was scheduled to return from Afghanistan, the Brooksville soldier was killed by an explosive device that also took the life of a man who graduated from a Tampa high school.
Williams' sister, Abrill Edwards, told the Tampa Bay Times that she talked with her brother on Sunday, the day he was killed. She said her brother read the Bible daily and confirmed he was due to come home in two or three weeks.
"But he's home," Edwards said. "He's in heaven, the best home, that's better than this home."
Killed by the same improvised bomb was Leto High School Class of 1999 graduate Army SSgt. Richardo Seija, 31. His parents still live in Tampa.
"I want America to remember him as a hero," his mother, Ignacia Seija, told the Tampa Tribune. "And he'll always be in my heart."
Both soldiers were killed with four others when their armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb July 8, 2012 in Wardak Province just south of Kabul, Afghanistan.
Sunday was a bloody day in Afghanistan that also saw seven Afghan police officers killed as well as 19 Afghan civilians and a seventh U.S. soldier in a separate attack.
According to the Military Times, there have been 6,488 deaths in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) as well as Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and Operation New Dawn confirmed by U.S. Central Command. But that toll does not include the six U.S. soldiers killed Sunday in the IED blast outside Kabul.
The Department of Defense casualty list shows a total of 6,518 deaths from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as of July 11, 2012, but that list also includes civilians.