Two Fort Lewis soldiers killed by roadside bomb

Two Stryker soldiers from Fort Lewis were killed when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle Monday in southern Afghanistan, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.

The soldiers were members of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and were identified as Lt. David T. Wright II, 26, of Moore, Okla., and Sgt. Andrew H. McConnell, 24, of Carlisle, Pa.

Their deaths bring to 11 the number of 5th Brigade soldiers killed since deploying to Afghanistan in July.

Wright enlisted in the Army in 2007. He reported to Fort Lewis in August 2008 and was on his first deployment. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Oklahoma.

The Oklahoman newspaper reported that Wright attended the university on a track scholarship before joining the military and earning his commission as an officer.

His parents, Tim and Michele Wright, issued a statement through a funeral service.

“We want to say how much we appreciate the prayers and support that has been shown to our family during this very difficult time. David was a true soldier, who cherished the opportunity to fight for his country,” according to the statement quoted by The Oklahoman.

“We arrived at Dover Air Force Base this evening, where we are awaiting the arrival of David’s remains later tonight. David was a very special person and cared for so many. We loved him greatly and will miss him tremendously.”

David Wright’s father is a Moore police officer, his mother a hair stylist, said Tom Noles, his former coach at Moore High School, according to The Oklahoman.

McConnell enlisted in the Army in October 2005 and reported to Fort Lewis in January 2007. He, too, was on his first deployment.

He joined the military when his father, Col. Gregory “Scott” McConnell, was studying at the Army War College while stationed at the Carlisle Barracks, according to The Sentinel newspaper in Carlisle.

“Andrew and I were schoolmates,” Sgt. Alex Bollman told The Sentinel, saying he attended North Georgia College & State University with McConnell from 2003 to 2005. “He was an incredibly close friend. We both went our separate ways in the Army, but we stayed in touch.”

Bollman, who now lives in North Dakota, created a Facebook page Wednesday honoring his friend.

Wright and McConnell were both assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment. The other nine men from 5th Brigade who have died in Afghanistan belonged to a different battalion, the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment.

All four of the deadly incidents to strike the 5th Brigade have taken multiple casualties, and all involved roadside bombs, whose use is steadily rising as American troops mount an offensive against Taliban insurgents in the country’s south.

The 5th Brigade represents a crucial part of the 21,000-person troop buildup in Afghanistan. Fort Lewis has between 4,000 and 5,000 troops in the country.