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'Outstanding leader' from New Castle killed in Afghanistan blast

| Monday, May 30, 2011

Edward Mills Jr.: Staff sergeant was on 3rd tour of duty in Middle East.



A Lawrence County man who "loved serving his country" was among six soldiers killed when his unit was hit by a homemade bomb in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Edward Mills Jr., 29, of New Castle and the others died in the explosion on Thursday in Kandahar Province, the Department of Defense said.

Mills was a member of the Army's 101st Airborne Ranger Pathfinders on his third tour of duty in the Middle East.

"He was an outstanding leader," said Mills' uncle, Francis "Poncho" Exposito. "He was the type of guy who, when you asked if he needed anything over there, he would say that whatever you send, send enough for all my guys."

The Defense Department identified the other soldiers as: 1st Lt. John M. Runkle, 27, of West Salem, Ohio; Staff Sgt. Ergin V. Osman, 35, of Jacksonville, N.C.; Sgt. Thomas A. Bohall, 25, of Bel Aire, Kan.; Spc. Adam J. Patton, 21, of Port Orchard, Wash.; and Sgt. Louie A. Ramos Velazquez, 39, of Camuy, Puerto Rico. All were assigned to Fort Campbell, Ky.

Exposito said Mills, a 2000 graduate of Union High School, joined the Army in January 2005. He left for his current tour on Feb. 11.

"He loved what he was doing in the Army. He loved serving the country," Exposito said. "Growing up, he was always wanting to go to the Army. His whole life, that's what he talked about."

Since joining the Army, Mills received several awards and decorations, including the Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal.

He is the second New Castle native to die in combat since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Albert Gettings, a Marine corporal, died Jan. 5, 2006, after his patrol was ambushed near Fallujah, Iraq.

The six were in a battalion based at Fort Campbell, Ky. Maj. Gen. John Campbell, who oversees the 101st Airborne, sent a letter to the Hopkinsville, Ky., and Clarksville, Tenn., communities that surround the sprawling post on the Kentucky-Tennessee line. He thanked them for supporting the post and the soldiers and called for prayers for those still deployed.

In addition to his uncle, Mills is survived by his mother, Kathie L. Greenawalt; father, Edward Mills; stepfather, Jeff Greenawalt; brothers Jarod Mills and Lucas Greenawalt; and stepsister Tiffany Cast. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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