FORT BRAGG, N.C. — An Army paratrooper from Ruskin has been killed in action in Afghanistan as the United States continues to wind down its presence there, the Defense Department announced Thursday.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Leggett died Wednesday of injuries sustained while engaged against enemy forces, according to a Department of Defense news release.
The 39-year-old from Ruskin was assigned to the headquarters battalion of the 18th Airborne Corps.
The loss of Leggett is tragic, his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Gabriel Barton, said in a statement published by the Military Times, a Gannett company that specializes in news about the nation's armed services.
"Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Leggett was an exceptional noncommissioned officer and a valued member of our team," Barton said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time. We will never forget him."
Leggett is the 152nd service member from Florida killed during the United States' 13-year war in Afghanistan, according to a database maintained by the Associated Press. His death comes as the United States moves to reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan, with current plans to remove all but a residual force by the end of 2016. The Obama administration has pledged to reduce the number of troops there to 9,800 by year's end, and to about 4,900 by the end of 2015.
Leggett enlisted in the Army in May 1995 and had been based at Fort Bragg since 2012. He served three combat tours and received numerous awards and decorations, including a Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster and a Purple Heart.
He is survived by his parents, Thea Marie Kurtz and Thomas Leggett. His family declined comment.