LEXINGTON, S.C. — Three S.C. National Guard soldiers were killed and five injured in Wednesday’s suicide bombing in Afghanistan, the S.C. National Guard announced Thursday.
The dead are 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, the Guard said. The names of the wounded were not released.
The eight soldiers were part of the 133rd Military Police Company, nicknamed the “Palmetto Regulators.” The unit is based in Timmonsville.
Wednesday was the bloodiest day in Afghanistan for the S.C. National Guard, which has deployed more than 12,000 troops there since the war began in 2002.
“These men died serving their country and I want to express my deepest sympathy and condolences to their families, who are the unsung heroes of our war effort,” said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., the state’s adjutant general. “These deaths are grim reminders that our military, to include the South Carolina National Guard, is still active in combat in defense of our country. We are privileged to have such heroes in our midst.”
The military police company was in Afghanistan to train members of the Afghan Uniformed Police in Khowst Province, the Guard said. The unit was scheduled to return home in August.
The suicide bomber attacked an Afghan-U.S. military convoy in Khost, killing two policemen and at least 14 civilians, as well as the three coalition troops and their Afghan interpreter, U.S. officials said. The statement released Wednesday didn’t identify the soldiers’ nationalities or other information.
Sixteen members of the S.C. National Guard have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.
The most recent combat fatalities were in October 2010 when two soldiers from the 1221st Engineer Company were killed by an improvised explosive device. Wednesday’s casualities were the first in 2012.
Rawl was a Richland County Sheriff’s deputy who once served as a school resource officer at Crayton Middle School, Sheriff Leon Lott said Thursday. He is the first Richland County deputy to be killed while serving in the National Guard since Sept. 11.
“He was one of those shining stars whom you can see only go up in life,” Lott said of Rawl, a married father of two young children, after a news conference announcing his death. “He was one of those that stood out because of his work ethic, and his drive and desire.”
A friend of Meador’s family said Thursday the family did not want media coverage of his death.
Rawl was a 2004 graduate of The Citadel and a 1st lieutenant with the 133rd Military Police unit. Rawl joined the sheriff’s department in 2005, Lott said, and worked as a road deputy until early 2011. At that time, he became a school resource officer at Crayton.
“He wanted to work with kids; it takes a very unique person to be a school resource officer. Not everyone is able to do that,” Lott said.
Crayton Middle School Principal Susan Childs said Thursday Rawl had “a major positive effect on our students and on our faculty.”
“We're all just kind in disbelief and devastated,” Childs said.
Rawls connected especially well with young people at the Richland 1 school, sometimes by cutting up with them, "and then by that relationship with them, he could pull them into serious conversations about their future and what choices they would have to make, and he would tell them they could do great things," Childs said.
On his Facebook page, Rawl is pictured with his unit holding a University of South Carolina flag. He said he was looking forward to coming home.
“I have two crazy but wonderful children, and I can’t wait to see them again!” he wrote on Facebook.
The 133rd Guard unit was activated for duty in Afghanistan last summer.
Thursday afternoon in Timmonsville, word had not gotten out about the deaths and injuries from the 133rd.
But for many of those in the rural Pee Dee community, Guard members are a visible presence.
“They run past here all the time,” said Jamal Lowery of Jamal’s Barber Shop, who watched the news last night about the ambush in Afghanistan “but never connected it to the 133rd.”
“When the new recruits come in, they send them down here because they know me,” Lowery said. “I cut their hair, white and black.”
“These guys come in and they want to know where the restaurants are,” he added. We talk sports and start shooting the breeze.”
Rawl, who joined the Guard in 2006, was due to come back in September, Lott said.
“Ryan is an example of the men and women who wear the uniform, not only in the sheriff’s department but the military,” Lott said. “They are out here every single day, in Richland County, or some foreign country, putting their life on the line. They stand tall for America, and stand tall for all of us,; he gave his life doing that.”
Lott said for some people these days, the war in Afghanistan is an afterthought.
“We really don’t pay that much attention to it,” Lott said. "But if somebody is killed in a suicide attack, or by a bomb, that’s somebody’s husband, son parent, co-worker. We have to realize this country’s at war.”