A Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier was killed Monday in Afghanistan when an improvised bomb exploded near his vehicle, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.
Pfc. James L. Miller, 21, of Yakima, died in Dashat, Afghanistan, according to a department statement. He was on his first deployment.
He was a member of 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which deployed to southern Afghanistan last summer and has now lost 35 soldiers during a tour scheduled to last one year. All but three have been killed in bombings.
Miller graduated from Chugiak High School in Alaska in 2007, moving with friends to Yakima in 2008, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.
He met his wife, Katie, who’s from Granger, while they were attending Yakima Valley Community College, the newspaper reported. He was studying mechanics.
He also liked to fish and go four-wheeling. And “He was an avid hockey player,” his mom, Kim Miller, said,
Miller last saw his wife and his daughter Peyton, now 18 months old, during a two-week leave last fall, the Herald-Republic reported. His mother spoke with him four days before he died.
“He was happy,” Kim Miller told the Yakima newspaper. “He was excited. He was down to three months, almost time to come home.”
According to unit records, Miller enlisted in the Army in September 2008 in Spokane. In January 2009, he arrived at Fort Lewis, and in May he was assigned to the Stryker brigade’s 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment.
He is the first service member with ties to the Yakima Valley to die in Afghanistan, according to the Herald-Republic. Ten have died in Iraq.
Miller’s body arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Wednesday morning, and a burial in Zillah, Wash., near his wife’s hometown, is planned.