Family and friends are mourning Spc. Luther Rabon Jr. of Red Bank and Staff Sgt. Willie Harley Jr. of Aiken, who were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
The men were members of 1221st Engineer Clearance Company, a S.C. Army National Guard unit based in Batesburg-Leesville and Graniteville, whose members clear roads for military convoys.
It’s a job other soldiers call very dangerous.
“No matter where you go in Afghanistan, this can happen anytime,” said Batesburg-Leesville Police Chief Wallace Oswald, a Guard member who has served there and in Iraq.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Their deaths bring the total of U.S. military with S.C. ties killed in Afghanistan and Iraq to 85.
Rabon’s father, Luther Rabon Sr., who was traveling Monday to meet the military aircraft carrying his son’s body back to the United States, was too distraught to talk.
“I’m kind of still upset,” he said.
Rabon, 32, and Harley, 48, died Friday in Paktika province in the rural southeast corner of Afghanistan after an explosion hit the vehicle they were riding in, Army officials said Monday.
Unit members told Oswald that Rabon and Harley were in a wrecker heading to pull other vehicles out of the way when the explosion occurred.
The wrecker had extra armor as a safeguard against bombs, Oswald said, but “that can only protect you so much.”
Members of the 200-soldier company went to Afghanistan in July in their first combat duty there.
Rabon joined the unit in January 2007and Harley in January 1983, officials said.
Their deaths are the first among S.C. Guard members since May 2008, officials said.
South Carolina Adjutant General Stan Spears said in a statement the Guard “lost two more members of our family.”
About 1,500 Guard members are overseas and providing security at home. Overall, about three-fourths of the 11,000 members of the state’s Army and Air National Guard have been deployed at least once since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Funeral arrangements for Rabon and Harley are incomplete.
Besides his parents, Rabon is survived by four children, officials said.
No other details about Harley were available.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.