Two 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers died in Afghanistan.
Cpl. Benjamin H. Neal, 21, died April 25 from an improvised explosive device in Zharay district, Kandahar province. Pfc. Christian Sannicolas, 20, was killed Saturday while on patrol in Ghazni province.
Neal, an Orfordville, Wis. native, served as an infantryman with the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
Neal joined the Army June 2009 as an infantryman and attended One-Station Unit Training and Airborne school at Fort Benning, Ga. He was assigned to the 1st Bn., 508th PIR in November 2009. He joined the battalion in southern Afghanistan in February 2010 for eight months. This was his second deployment.
“Ben Neal was a charismatic, fun-loving paratrooper whom I never saw frown. He took great pride in being a team leader and was respected by all of Battle Company and throughout the Battalion. Ben was a true paratrooper in every sense of the word” said Lt. Col. Ced Carrington, the 1st Battalion commander. “His loss will be sorely felt by his fellow paratroopers and the entire 1st Battalion Family.”
Neal’s command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Francis Debois, remembers him “as (a Soldier) always wanting to learn more and leading from the front. He lost his life fighting for what he believed in alongside his buddies. He was a true professional.”
Sannicolas served as a rifleman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
A native of Fullerton, Calif., Sannicolas was on patrol in southern Ghazni province in support of Operation Enduring Freedom when his mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP, was struck by a roadside bomb.
He died of blast-related injuries.
Sannicolas joined the Army January, 2011. He was assigned to 1st Brigade in June 2011 and deployed with them this spring.
Posthumously Sannicolas was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Sannicolas is survived by his mother, Deanna Howard of Fullerton.