Soldier with family ties to California killed in eastern Afghanistan
An Army sergeant with family ties to California is among five soldiers from Ft. Campbell, Ky., killed by a roadside bomb in the mountainous Kunar region of eastern Afghanistan, the Army reported Wednesday.
Sgt. Joshua Lukeala, 23, of Yigo, Guam, was killed June 7 when his convoy was attacked along a treacherous road leading to isolated Afghan villages. His wife, Deniece, and daughter, Maiya, live in Hanford, Calif., the Army said.
Lukeala and the others were part of the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade combat team of the 101st Airborne Division (air assault). He had also deployed to Iraq, where he received the Purple Heart.
The road where the convoy was attacked is a narrow, winding, unpaved path with a mountain on one side and the rushing Kunar River on the other. The road has been the site of numerous attacks on military and civilian vehicles, and is in a region where support for the Taliban is strong.
"I've driven IED (improvised explosive device) Alley in Baghdad more times than I can remember and I can tell you that this road is by far the scariest bit of real estate I've ever seen," said a U.S. soldier familiar with the road where the attack occured.
As The Times reported in a December story: "The hulks of three dozen civilian convoy vehicles littered the slanting area between the road and the river -- some burned-out hulks from ambushes, others crumpled wrecks from a driver's inability to negotiate the tight turns, shifting gravel and frequent boulders."
A convoy of the California National Guard was ambushed along the road in December by insurgents with AK-47s. There were no U.S. casualties in the ensuing firefight.
Lukeala had last spoken to his family over the Memorial Day weekend, according to a story in the Pacific Daily News.
"He said everything was OK," said his brother Anthony Lukeala, "and I told him to take care and to make sure you do what you have to do to get home."
-- Tony Perry in San Diego
Photos, from top: Army Sgt. Joshua Lukeala. Credit: U.S. Army; A portion of the road that has been the site of numerous attacks on U.S. convoys. Credit: Tony Perry / Los Angeles Times