NEW YORK (Reuters) - A female officer in the Air Force, who was one of the first openly gay service members to get married, was identified on Tuesday as being among six U.S. troops killed by a suicide bomber near Bagram air base in Afghanistan.
Air Force Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen is the first openly gay woman to be killed in action, the Daily Beast news website reported, citing a Department of Defense official.
Six American troops, including Vorderbruggen, were killed Monday when a suicide bomber on a motorbike struck their patrol in the deadliest attack on U.S. forces this year.
Facebook postings on Tuesday by Vorderbruggen’s loved ones mourned her death on Monday and sent condolences to her wife Heather and son Jacob. The family lives near Washington, D.C., where the couple was married in June 2012, the year after the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays was repealed.
“We do find comfort in knowing that Heather and Jacob are no longer in the shadows and will be extended the rights and protections due any American military family as they move through this incredibly difficult period in their lives,” said the posting from Military Partners and Families Coalition.
Bagram, around 40 km (25 miles) north of Kabul, is one of the main bases for the remaining 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, after international troops ended combat operations last year.
The victims included New York City Detective Joseph Lemm, a 15-year veteran of the NYPD who also volunteered in the U.S. Air National Guard and was on his third deployment to war zones.
“Detective Joseph Lemm epitomized the selflessness we can only strive for: putting his country and city first,” New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement.
Local media in Statesboro, Georgia, identified a third victim as serviceman Chester McBride Jr., who was remembered by the principal of Statesboro High School as “a young man of high character with a great smile.”
Serviceman Michael Anthony Cinco of Rio Grande Valley, Texas, was identified by local media as another victim.
Facebook postings identified others as Staff Sergeants Peter Taub, whose family lives in the Washington, D.C., area, and Louis Bonacasa from New York.
“My son, Chef Jon’s brother, Staff Sargeant Peter Taub was one of six killed yesterday in Afghanistan,” wrote the owner of the Taub family sandwich shop in Washington. “The restaurant is closed for the rest of this week.”
Wrote Air Force member Jeffrey Behrman: “Joseph Lemm and Louis Bonacasa, I’m glad to have known you men, I’m glad I was able to buy you men a couple pints before you left for Afghanistan.”
The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the strike, remains resilient 14 years after the start of U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan. It has ramped up its attacks this year, inflicting heavier casualties on Afghan security forces.
Just last week, the Pentagon warned of deteriorating security in Afghanistan and assessed the performance of Afghan security forces as “uneven and mixed.”
More than 2,300 U.S. troops have died in the Afghan war since the 2001 invasion, but the pace of U.S. deaths has fallen off sharply since the end of formal U.S. combat and a drawdown of American forces.
Pentagon data showed there have been 10 so-called “hostile” deaths of U.S. service members in Afghanistan this year. There have been 10 non-hostile deaths, largely from aircraft crashes.
Additional reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Alistair Bell
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