A soldier with Massachusetts ties was killed in action in Afghanistan Tuesday.
Major Michael J. Donahue, 41, a 1990 graduate of Whitman-Hanson Regional High School, was a paratrooper who had been stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., since 2012.
He was on his third tour of duty, according to a statement from the XVIII Airborne Corps.
In Middleborough, where Donahue’s sister lives, about 14 miles south of Whitman, Allin Frawley, the selectmen chairman, has asked that the American flag at every municipal building in town be lowered to half-staff Friday and Saturday.
“We’re doing it out of respect for him and his family,” Frawley said. “From everything I know, he was one hell of a guy.”
For the Lucas family of Lakeville, the loss was more than that of a stranger.
Around Christmastime, Samantha Lucas, then 11, wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking that he deliver gifts to the homeless and deployed soldiers. Her mother, Jamie, was so moved that she posted a photo of the letter on Facebook, which a friend then sent to her friends in the military — including Donahue.
Donahue responded, sending a Christmas card to Samantha.
“I was blown away that he took the time to write the card in the first place,” said Jamie, adding that Samantha wrote him back, wishing him a safe return home.
“When I found out that he was killed, it broke my heart. I don’t even know this man personally, but I cried. ... It felt like he was in my home” when he sent the card, Jamie said.
Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel Barton, Donahue’s battalion commander, said in a statement that the unit had “suffered a great loss today, and we would like to express our deepest condolences to the Donahue Family. Maj. Michael Donahue was an exceptional officer and a huge part of our team and our family.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time. We will never forget him,” Barton said in a statement.
The circumstances surrounding Donahue’s death are still under investigation, the military said.
Donahue enlisted in the Army in February 1996 and was commissioned through Officer Candidate School in April 2000.
He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for a previous deployment, and has received 15 other awards and ribbons, including the Purple Heart.
Donahue is survived by his wife, Sherri, and children, Victoria, Seamus, and Bailey.
Kiera Blessing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.