Three South Carolina National Guard soldiers were killed and five were injured in Wednesday’s suicide bombing in Afghanistan, the S.C. National Guard announced Thursday.
The dead are 1st Lt. Ryan Davis Rawl, 30, of Lexington; Spc. John David Meador II, 36, of Columbia; and Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bradford Thomas, 30, of Easley, the Guard said. The names of the wounded were not released.
The eight soldiers were part of the 133rd Military Police Company, nicknamed the Palmetto Regulators. The unit is based in Timmonsville.
Wednesday was the bloodiest day in Afghanistan for the S.C. National Guard, which has deployed more than 12,000 troops there since the war began in 2001.
“These men died serving their country and I want to express my deepest sympathy and condolences to their families, who are the unsung heroes of our war effort,” said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., the state’s adjutant general. “These deaths are grim reminders that our military, to include the South Carolina National Guard, is still active in combat in defense of our country. We are privileged to have such heroes in our midst.”
The military police company was in Afghanistan to train members of the Afghan Uniformed Police in Khost Province, the Guard said. The unit deployed in November and was scheduled to return home in August.
The suicide bomber attacked an Afghan-U.S. military checkpoint in a crowded marketplace in Khost, killing two policemen and at least 14 civilians, as well as the three U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter, U.S. officials said. At least 35 were injured.
Sixteen members of the S.C. National Guard have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.
The most recent combat fatalities were in October 2010 when two soldiers from the 1221st Engineer Company were killed by an improvised explosive device. Wednesday’s causalities were the first in 2012.
Rawl was a Richland County Sheriff’s deputy who once served as a school resource officer at Crayton Middle School, Sheriff Leon Lott said Thursday. He is the first Richland County deputy to be killed while serving in the National Guard since 9/11.
“He was one of those shining stars whom you can see only go up in life,” Lott said of Rawl, a married father of two young children, after a news conference announcing his death. “He was one of those that stood out because of his work ethic, and his drive and desire.”
Rawl was a 2000 graduate of Lexington High School and a 2004 graduate of The Citadel. He joined the Sheriff’s Department in 2005, Lott said, and worked as a road deputy until early 2011. At that time, he became a school resource officer at Crayton.
“He wanted to work with kids; it takes a very unique person to be a school resource officer. Not everyone is able to do that,” Lott said.
Crayton Middle School principal Susan Childs said Thursday that Rawl had “a major positive effect on our students and on our faculty.”
“We’re all just kind of in disbelief and devastated,” Childs said.
Rawl connected especially well with young people at the Richland 1 school, sometimes by cutting up with them, “and then by that relationship with them, he could pull them into serious conversations about their future and what choices they would have to make, and he would tell them they could do great things,” Childs said.
Meador was a 1994 graduate of Lexington High School, the Lexington 1 school district said. He is married with two children. A friend of Meador’s wife said Thursday the family did not want media coverage of his death.
Thomas, known as Brad, was an Eagle Scout who was remembered as someone who would always help friends. He was married and had a young son.
Thomas was “one of those bright shining lights that got extinguished way too early,” said Staff Sgt. John Sholts, a friend stationed at Fort Benning, Ga. “For this to happen to somebody like that who’s got a wife and a new family, it’s tough.”
Word was trickling out slowly Thursday in Timmonsville about the deaths and injuries from the 133rd.
Earlier in the day, there were no outward signs to suggest anything was amiss at the armory. Before official word of the deaths, Old Glory and the state flag flew at full-staff.
For many in this rural Pee Dee community, Guard members are a visible presence.
“They run past here all the time,” said Jamal Lowery of Jamal’s Barber Shop, who watched the news Wednesday night about the suicide bombing in Afghanistan but never connected it to the 133rd.
“When the new recruits come in, they send them down here because they know me,” Lowery said. “I cut their hair, white and black.
“We talk sports and start shooting the breeze.”
Rawl joined the Guard in 2006, Lott said.
“Ryan is an example of the men and women who wear the uniform, not only in the Sheriff’s Department but the military,” Lott said. “They are out here every single day, in Richland County, or some foreign country, putting their life on the line. They stand tall for America, and stand tall for all of us; he gave his life doing that.”
Gov. Nikki Haley, who attended the 133rd unit’s deployment ceremony, said in a statement she was saddened by the deaths and injuries.
“We continue to pray for the recovery of the injured and the families of the lost, and South Carolina will now put all of our focus on helping them going forward,” the governor’s statement said.
Funeral service information for Rawl, Thomas and Meador was not available Thursday.
Contributing: Staff writers Carolyn Click and Jeff Wilkinson, McClatchy Tribune News Service, Greenville News