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The Stryker Brigade has lost 27 soldiers since its deployment to Afghanistan in July, most from improvised explosive devices.

“We never would have thought we’d see the death of a young soldier from such a rare illness,” Col. French said. “You can prepare for almost anything out here but how do you prepare for that?”

Sgt. Gordon’s decorations and awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Expert Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge and V-Device for valor. He was also awarded three Army Achievement medals.