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Fort Campbell Mourns Troops Killed In Afghanistan

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All nine of the service members killed in this week's helicopter crash in Afghanistan were Americans, and most were with the 101st Airborne out of Fort Campbell, Ky. On Thursday, reporter Blake Farmer went to Fort Campbell to talk to friends and colleagues of those killed.


All nine service members killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan this week were Americans, that confirmation today from the Pentagon. Five were members of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell on the Tennessee-Kentucky border. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN visited Fort Campbell and has been talking to friends and family.

BLAKE FARMER: Kyle McKee started his day looking all over for a newspaper, which will become a painful memento.

Mr. KYLE MCKEE: The article's in the paper today, so.

FARMER: The headline reads: 101st Airborne Loses Five Soldiers in Afghan Crash. One was McKee's best friend, Josh Powell. The two trained together to become helicopter crew chiefs.

Mr. MCKEE: Right now, you know, I'm dealing with it pretty well today. Yesterday was pretty rough.

FARMER: One thing he's been remembering is of a day the two friends lost track of time. McKee says he forgot about a date he'd planned with his future wife.

Mr. MCKEE: We're giggling like a bunch of little school girls on the couch, drunk, watching "Family Guy" and hanging out. She was just so pissed. That's kind of a story we still tell. It's, like I said, I mean, there's stories just daily of stuff that we got into.

FARMER: This week's crash was the deadliest for coalition forces in four years. The cause remains unclear. A 37-year-old officer, Major Robert Baldwin, was killed. He and Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Wagstaff were Bronze Star recipients. Jonah McClellan and Marvin Calhoun, Jr. ages 26 and 23 also died.

Ms. PATRICIA GAURA: It's kind of a relief, really, because you know it's not your husband.

FARMER: Patricia Gaura says she feels for the women who were visited this week by a chaplain delivering the bad news. Her husband serves in the same unit as the five men, and Gaura says she fears for his safety.

Ms. GAURA: When he calls me in the morning, all I hear is gun shots. You know, I mean, one time he called me, and he let the phone down and all I heard was we're under fire. We're getting shot. This is not what I want to hear. I get nervous. I get scared. I'm like, what are you doing?

FARMER: Perhaps there's cause to be more uptight than usual around Fort Campbell right now. The post is experiencing the highest rate of causalities since the war began. Fifty-nine soldiers from here have died in Afghanistan this year.

For NPR News, I'm Blake Farmer in Nashville.

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