Mass. native killed in combat operations in Afghanistan
A highly decorated soldier from Massachusetts, who also was a founder of a nonprofit devoted to honoring fallen service members, was one of three US troops killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Army Sergeant First Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, who grew up in Fall River and lived for a time in Dorchester, was one of three Special Forces soldiers who died from injuries after their vehicle was struck “by an improvised explosive device in Andar,” the Department of Defense said in a statement Wednesday.
Andar is a town in Ghazni province, an area south of Kabul, where the Taliban have been resurgent. The deaths are believed to be the deadliest attack on US forces this year.
Emond, a two-time recipient of the Purple Heart, was serving his seventh overseas tour. Also killed in the attack were Army Captain Andrew Ross, 29, and Air Force Staff Sergeant Dylan J. Elchin, 25, according to the Defense Department.
Emond, who had more than 21 years of military service, was a married father of three. He most recently lived in Brush Prairie, Wash., according to an Army spokesman.
In his home state, Emond was remembered as a dedicated soldier who helped to found Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, a nonprofit formed by combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan that assists veterans and offers a network of support for the families of fallen service members.
“He was an unbelievably caring man,” said Dan Magoon, the group’s executive director, in an interview. “He cared about this country, he cared about his service, most of all, he cared about his wife and his kids — his family.”
Emond grew up in Fall River, where he graduated from Durfee High School, Magoon said. His last Massachusetts address was on Stock Street in Dorchester before he moved to Fort Bragg, N.C., a few years ago, said Magoon.
Some residents of Stock Street recalled Emond living in their neighborhood, but were too distraught by his death to talk about him Wednesday night.
Magoon described Emond as someone “who always put others before himself.” Emond, he said, was a great man and a great soldier.
The attack that killed the three is under investigation, according to a statement from the Defense Department.
Emond’s military decorations and awards include the Bronze Star Medal, which he was awarded three times; the Purple Heart, which he was awarded two times; and the Meritorious Service Medal, along with more than a dozen others.
Emond and Ross were assigned to First Battalion, Third Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Fort Bragg, according to the department statement. Elchin was assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.
“Andrew and Eric were invaluable members and leaders in 3rd Special Forces Group and the special operations community,” said Army Colonel Nathan Prussian in a statement. “Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the families of these brave men.”
Emond’s death was mourned by state and local officials in Massachusetts.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Governor Charlie Baker said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of” Emond.
“Sgt. Emond was a highly decorated soldier and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will be forever grateful for his bravery and honorable service to the country throughout seven tours of duty overseas,” said Baker.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a tweet, “I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of all three service members who gave the greatest sacrifice serving our country, including our own Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond.”
Fall River Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II said during a brief phone interview Wednesday evening that the Department of Defense notified the city’s veteran services office on Tuesday that a service member with “Fall River connections” was killed in Afghanistan.