Family, friends, and local officials mourned the loss of Master Sergeant Luis F. Deleon-Figueroa, a 31-year-old Green Beret from Chicopee who was killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday.
Deleon-Figueroa served more than 13 years in the US Army and was deployed six times during his career.
In an interview with WWLP-22News, his parents, Bill and Lisa Campbell, spoke of his recent decision to reenlist.
“He just had signed up for his fourth tour, or fourth enlistment,” his father told WWLP. “He called us months ago, and said, ‘What do you think, should I re-enlist or come home?’ He said, ‘I think I’ll stay in.’ That was the last decision we talked about.”
Deleon-Figueroa was one of two soldiers assigned to the Seventh Special Forces Group (Airborne) who died during combat operations in the Faryab Province on Wednesday, according to the US Army.
Master Sergeant Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, a California native, was also killed Wednesday. Both were posthumously promoted to master sergeant.
Deleon-Figueroa’s parents said he was very proud to serve his country.
“Biggest memory, I think, of Luis was when he called me being so proud that he became a Green Beret,” his father told WWLP. “He was like ecstatic, ‘I’ve become somebody, Dad,’ he said. . . . I said, ‘Luis, it just took focus and discipline. You did it all yourself. Be proud of what you did.’ ”
His parents fondly recalled how he used to sing “I’m Proud to Be an American” loudly in the shower every morning.
“And all the other kids were yelling at him,” Bill Campbell said.
“He was just really proud, proud to be a soldier,” Lisa Campbell said. “He wouldn’t have had it any other way, that was his life.”
Army officials said Deleon-Figueroa deployed as an infantryman to Iraq in 2008, and to Afghanistan in 2010. As a Green Beret, he deployed to South America in 2015 and 2018, and to Afghanistan in 2018 and 2019. His posthumous awards included the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and he earned more than 15 other awards and decorations during his career, according to the Army.
US Representative Richard E. Neal called Deleon-Figueroa “an American hero.”
“I am deeply saddened by the death of Special Forces Soldier Luis DeLeon-Figueroa of Chicopee who was killed yesterday defending our country in Afghanistan,” Neal said in a statement. “Master Sergeant DeLeon-Figueroa is an American hero who served with honor and distinction. A grateful nation mourns his loss.”
Chicopee Mayor Richard J. Kos also issued a statement about Deleon-Figueroa, describing him as a “son of Chicopee.”
“As a city, we have great pride in the men and women who have volunteered to serve and protect us, but it is times like these that we appreciate just how courageous — and selfless — they really are,” Kos said in the statement. “Master Sergeant DeLeon-Figueroa will be honored by our City as one of our heroes and we hope that his family will find comfort knowing that his sacrifice — their sacrifice — will always be remembered.
State Veterans’ Services Secretary Francisco Urena expressed his condolences on Twitter Thursday night.
“Saddened to learn that Army Special Forces MSG. Luis F. Deleon-Figueroa, 31, #ChicopeeMA who was killed yesterday in Afghanistan’s Faryab Province,” Urena wrote. “He joined the @USArmy 13 years ago, a member of the Army’s Special Forces, Green Berets. My thoughts are with his family & friends.”
Governor Charlie Baker also paid tribute to Deleon-Figueroa on social media.
“A terrible tragedy for him, his family & us all,” Baker tweeted Friday morning. “There are thousands of individuals like Luis & his family who volunteer to serve this country in dangerous places all over the world. Pls keep them all in your thoughts & prayers. RIP MSG Deleon-Figueroa.”
State Senator Eric Lesser tweeted that he was “heartbroken” over the loss of Deleon-Figueroa.
“May his memory be a blessing and may we never forget the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country,” Lesser tweeted.
Stephanie Shaw, the director of veterans services for Chicopee, said she’s working with the casualty assistance officer to provide support to Deleon-Figueroa’s family.
“We look forward to remembering his service and supporting his family during this very difficult time,” she said in a telephone interview.