WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Pentagon has identified the six U.S. airmen who were killed Monday when their patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle near Bagram Air Base in southern Afghanistan.
According to the Pentagon, the fatalities included Maj. Adrianna M. Vorderbruggen, 36, of Plymouth, Minnesota; Staff Sgt. Michael A. Cinco, 28, of Mercedes, Texas; Staff Sgt. Peter W. Taub, 30, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Staff Sgt. Chester J. McBride, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia; Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm, 45, of Bronx, New York; and Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa, 31, of Coram, New York.
Sgt. Lemm was a 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department. He 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.
Four of the deceased troops— Maj. Vorderbruggen, Sgt. Cinco, Staff Sgt. Taub, and Staff Sgt. McBride — were assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) at separate locations. The remaining two — Technical Sgt. Lemm and Staff Sgt. Bonacasa — were assigned to the Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter revealed that two other American service members and a U.S. contractor were wounded in the attack. An Afghan was also injured, according to various news reports.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack near Bagram Air Base, the largest U.S. military facility in Afghanistan. Maj. Vorderbruggen, the only female among the fatalities, was “one of the first openly gay service members to get married,” reports Reuters.
Citing a Department of Defense (DOD) official, The Daily Beast reports that Maj. Vorderbruggen is the first openly gay woman to be killed in action.
“Facebook postings on Tuesday by Vorderbruggen’s loved ones mourned her death on Monday and sent condolences to her wife Heather and son Jacob,” reports Reuters. “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where the couple was married in June 2012, the year after the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy for gays was repealed.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, called for prayers for the six U.S. service members killed in Monday’s terrorist attack. Cruz’ office acknowledged that Staff. Sgt. Cinco, from the Rio Grande Valley, was among the fatalities.
“Today, [my wife] and I are lifting up in prayer the Cinco family and all those affected by this horrific act of terrorism – an act of pure and unadulterated evil,” said Cruz in a statement. “The victims of this attack are patriots who have given their utmost for liberty so that we may remain safe and free. As details continue to unfold surrounding this suicide bombing, a signature tactic of radical Islamic terrorism, let’s pause to remember the selflessness and bravery of America’s fallen servicemen and women.”
Staff Sgt. McBride was remembered by the principal of Statesboro High School as “a young man of high character with a great smile,” according to local media is Statesboro, Georgia.
“My son, Chef Jon’s brother, Staff Sergeant Peter Taub was one of six killed yesterday in Afghanistan,” the owner of the Taub family sandwich shop in Washington, D.C., wrote on Facebook. “The restaurant is closed for the rest of this week.”
“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,” wrote Air Force member Jeffrey Behrman on Facebook.
A Pentagon report released last week warned of deteriorating security in Afghanistan and assessed the performance of Afghan security forces as “uneven and mixed.”
At least 2,235 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the October 2001 invasion, but the pace of U.S. fatalities has sharply declined since the end of formal U.S. combat in December 2014 and a drawdown of American forces.
Taliban-linked violence in Afghanistan has intensified since President Obama and NATO ended their combat mission in December 2014.