- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 1, 2006

The U.S. military said yesterday it was investigating whether the Gaithersburg soldier who was recently killed in eastern Afghanistan died because of “friendly fire.”

The Defense Department said Army Pfc. Justin R. Davis, 19, died June 25 in eastern Kunar province when he came in contact with indirect fire — a term used for mortar shelling — while on patrol during combat operations.

“The circumstances of the soldier’s death are under investigation as a possible friendly-fire incident,” according to a statement from the department.

In Afghanistan, the U.S.-led coalition released a statement saying an investigation into the incident is under way.

“We are looking into Pfc. Davis’ death to determine what happened. No final determination has been made and we will not release any information relating to the investigation until it is complete,” the statement said.

Pfc. Davis had been assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, N.Y.

His mother, Paula Davis, told the Frederick News-Post that her son was “passionate about joining the service.

“He would always say, ‘This is my dream. I am going to follow it,’” Mrs. Davis said. “He died doing what he loved.”

Pfc. Davis had been in Afghanistan since March and had plans to come home for several weeks in August.

“It was a calling,” his mother said. “It was a life that fit him.”

Pfc. Davis’ body arrived Tuesday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Mrs. Davis said. He will be buried July 10 in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Coalition troops have been operating in eastern Afghanistan to battle insurgents active along the Pakistan border.

According to U.S. Army data earlier this year, 17 soldiers in the past four years have died from friendly fire, which means from non-enemy weapons. Ten died in Iraq and seven in Afghanistan. The deaths occurred in 11 separate incidents.

The most well-known case was the 2004 death of former NFL player Pat Tillman, an Army Ranger and corporal, who died during a gunbattle near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. That case triggered a criminal investigation that is still pending.

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