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September 18, 2012

Afghani insurgent attack kills Taylor grad

Body to arrive in Kokomo later this week.

A U.S. Marine who graduated from Taylor High School in 2003 was killed Saturday in Afghanistan after about 15 insurgents dressed in U.S. Army uniforms infiltrated a military base with rocket-propelled grenades and explosive vests.

Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, 27, Kokomo, was killed while supporting combat operations at Camp Bastion in Helmand province, the Department of Defense announced Monday.

The attack commenced just after 10 p.m. Thursday when approximately 15 insurgents executed a well-coordinated attack against the airfield on Camp Bastion, according to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.    

The insurgents, organized into three teams, penetrated the perimeter fence. The insurgents appeared to be well equipped, trained and rehearsed.

Dressed in U.S. Army uniforms and armed with automatic rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests, the insurgents attacked rotary wing aircraft parked on the flight line, aircraft hangars and other buildings.

Six AV-8B Harrier jets were destroyed and two were significantly damaged. Three refueling stations also were destroyed. Six soft-skin aircraft hangars were damaged to some degree.

Insurgents also killed Lt. Col. Christopher K. Raible, 40, Huntington, Pa., and wounded eight military personnel and one civilian contractor. The ISAF reported none of their injuries are considered life-threatening.

Jimmy Coates, fiancée to Cheryl Atwell, Bradley’s mother, said the family received the news of his death late Friday.

“It was just grief and shock,” he said. “We are devastated. There’s 20,000 troops over there, and it happens to our boy. He’s a hero. He protected and defended our way of life.”

Danielle Brewster, a cousin, said Atwell married Danielle Cross, a Russiaville native who graduated from Western High School, just 10 months ago on Nov. 5, 2011. They moved to Yuma, Ariz., where Atwell was stationed with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps on Oct. 17, 2005, and served as an electrical systems technician.

Brewster said Atwell first joined the Air Force shortly after graduating from Taylor, where he played on the baseball team.

“He was always very dead-set on joining,” she said, noting he briefly attended the University of Evansville. “He never thought twice about doing it.”

Brewster said Atwell was set to permanently return to the U.S. next month after first being deployed to Afghanistan in February.

Atwell’s military awards include the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and NATO Service Medal-International Security Assistance Force.

“Bradley was a piece of American apple pie,” Coates said, noting he loved being a mentor and role model to others. “Any life he ever touched, they benefited from knowing him. I just can’t say enough good things about him.”

He said Atwell considered Kokomo his home and would come here every chance he could while not deployed.

Coates said Atwell’s remains will arrive at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Wednesday, where the body will receive a dignified transfer. He estimated the body will arrive in Indianapolis and receive a military transport to Kokomo by Friday.

“He gave the ultimate sacrifice so we could live our lives,” Coates said.

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