Topsham soldier dies in Afghanistan

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AUGUSTA — A soldier from Topsham died in Afghanistan Sunday from wounds he suffered during an attack on his unit, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Sgt. Corey Garver, 26, who was serving with B Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., “died June 23, in Zormat, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device,” according to the official Department of Defense notice posted Tuesday.

“Sgt. Garver died defending his country and we owe him and his family a debt of gratitude for their sacrifice,” U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said in a statement. “I know words can’t ease the pain that his family is feeling, but I hope they know that the thoughts and prayers of the people of Maine go out to them during this most difficult time.”

Garver’s mother lives in Louisiana and his father and stepmother live in New Mexico, Pingree’s notice states.

Garver lists Topsham as his hometown on his Facebook page and Fort Campbell, Ky., as where he lived.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of Sergeant Garver’s passing,” U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement Tuesday. “He was a true American hero who valiantly dedicated himself to the defense of our country. His actions on the battlefield demonstrated the highest caliber of leadership and courage and we owe him our enduring gratitude. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in this most difficult time.”

“His service to our great country and unwavering commitment to protect our freedom and our values will not be forgotten,” said Gov. Paul LePage in a statement Wednesday. “The First Lady and I extend our thoughts and prayers to his family, as well as to all soldiers who continue to serve in harm’s way.”

Garver is featured in several photos in a slide show of U.S. Army images from Paktia province, Afghanistan, that were taken in late May by U.S. Army photographer Spc. Robert Porter, and posted online on the DOD website earlier this month.

He is pictured looking for homemade explosives in one shot, providing security as members of his unit and Afghan National Army soldiers work to clear a village in Paktia province in another, and looking through his weapon’s scope in a third.

Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Gagnon of Topsham, who is an Army recruiter now stationed in Utah, said he and Garver’s family got to know each other at church when he was a youngster. The two families spent time together on Bailey Island.

“I can still see him in the field wrestling with his sister over potato chips,” he said by phone.

Garver’s father was a career Navy sailor, and he followed in his footsteps into the military, Gagnon said. Garver graduated from Mt. Ararat High School before joining the military, according to Gagnon.

“He loved the Army,” Gagnon said. “I remember the day he enlisted. He was very excited.”

Garver attended Mt. Ararat from 2004-2006, according to Principal Craig King.

“He had many friends at Mt. Ararat and had a very outgoing personality,” King recalled in a press release. “I remember the day Corey met with his military recruiter in the Guidance Office. He was happy that he had found a calling to pursue. Corey told me he was excited about his decision to enlist and it was evident to me that he was proud of the commitment he was making.”

King e-mailed sentiments from Matt Haskell, one of Garver’s teachers.

“As a teenager he seemed to have a better understanding than his peers about the ordeal soldiers face during conflict; battles are not won in a couple of days, food is not always available, not everyone comes back and the importance of the relationships between the soldiers as they face their ordeal,” Haskell wrote. “It is no surprise to me that Corey pursued a career in the armed services.”

Sidebar Elements

U.S. Army Sgt. Corey Garver, of Topsham, walks around a village in Paktia province, Afghanistan, on May 29, 2013. Garver died June 23 from an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.