May 19, 2002: Sergeant Gene A. Vance Jr. Dies in the Afghan War

US Army honor guards carry a flag-draped coffin with the remains of Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr. from Morgantown, West Virginia, off a C-17 plane at the Ramstein, western Germany, US Air Base, Monday May 20, 2002.

Sergeant Gene A. Vance Jr. of Morgantown was killed in combat in Afghanistan on May 19, 2002. Vance was the only member of the West Virginia National Guard to die in the Afghan War, but 14 other West Virginians in active duty also lost their lives in the conflict.

The war was triggered by the terrorists’ attacks on the United States on 9/11/2001. The West Virginia Air National Guard’s Tactical Airlift Wings out of Charleston and Martinsburg flew hundreds of missions for the Air Force. The West Virginia National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), with headquarters in Huntington, was one of the first units sent to Afghanistan. Sergeant Vance was a member of this unit.

Reserve and National Guard units were dispatched to both Afghanistan and Iraq to reinforce active military forces. In addition to the 15 West Virginians who gave their lives in Afghanistan, another 24 soldiers and marines from our state lost their lives in the Iraq War. Virtually all elements of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard were mobilized for at least one deployment to the Middle East.