Three South Carolina Army National Guard soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday while conducting combat operations, including a soldier from Pickens County.
On Wednesday, the South Carolina Army National Guard said 1st Lt. Ryan Davis Rawl, 30, of Lexington; Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bradford Thomas, 30, of Easley; and Spc. John David Meador II, 36, of Columbia, were killed in Khowst City, Khowst Province, Afghanistan when their patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber.
Friends and family of Thomas are mourning the loss of a man they called "a true hero."
A yellow ribbon now hangs at the home Thomas shared with his wife, Jana Thomas, and son, Caden. It's a symbol to honor America's military and those who have fallen.
Neighbors said he was a proud husband and father, and his son Caden was a daddy's boy.
"Brad was a real family man," said neighbor Todd Jones. "He and his son would be out in the yard a lot, playing with their dog."
Those who knew Thomas said he was a true patriot, and his sacrifice won't be forgotten.
"He always flew the American flag on his front lawn, the never had a ill word toward anyone, he was proud to serve," Todd Jones said.
Thomas attended Travelers Rest High School and worked at Charter Media before he was deployed in November, according to family members.
Five South Carolina National Guard soldiers were also wounded. All eight soldiers are assigned to the 133rd Military Police Company, headquartered in Timmonsville.
The National Guard said the mission of the 133rd MP Company in Afghanistan is to train members of the Afghan Uniformed Police in Khowst Province.
The unit deployed 170 soldiers to Afghanistan in November 2011. The 133rd MP Company is scheduled to return home this August.
Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston said Friday that the three soldiers' bodies would return home next week and their funerals would likely be held towards the end of the week.
The injured Guardsmen suffered broken bones, shrapnel wounds and have had amputations, Livingston said. He said the attack claimed a total of 21 lives.
Since 2003, 16 members of the South Carolina National Guard have died in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The most recent combat fatalities were in October 2010, when two soldiers from the 1221st Engineer Company were killed by an IED.
Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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