Groundbreaking lesbian Air Force officer killed in Afghanistan
A female officer in the Air Force who was one of the first openly gay service members to marry was identified on Tuesday as among the six U.S. troops killed by a suicide bomber near Bagram air base in Afghanistan.
Facebook postings on Tuesday by friends and family of Air Force Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen mourned her death on Monday and sent condolences to her wife Heather and son Jacob, who live near Washington, D.C.
“We do find comfort in knowing that Heather and Jacob are no longer in the shadows and will be extended the rights and protections due any American military family as they move through this incredibly difficult period in their lives,” said the posting from Military Partners and Families Coalition.
Six American troops, including Vorderbruggen, were killed Monday when a suicide bomber on a motorbike struck their patrol in the deadliest attack on U.S. forces this year.
Bagram, around 40 km (25 miles) north of Kabul, is one of the main bases for the 9,800 U.S. troops left in Afghanistan after international troops ended combat operations last year.
The victims included New York City Detective Joseph Lemm, a 15-year veteran of the NYPD who also volunteered in the U.S. Air National Guard and was on his third deployment to war zones.
“Detective Joseph Lemm epitomized the selflessness we can only strive for: putting his country and city first,” New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement.
Mayor Bill de Blasio sent his condolences to Lemm’s wife and two children, saying in a statement they were among so many American families this holiday season “who have an empty chair at the dinner table because one of their loved ones went off to defend our country and never came back.”
Lemm was deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq, Bratton said.
The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the strike, remains resilient 14 years after the start of U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan. It has ramped up its attacks this year, inflicting heavier casualties on Afghan security forces.
Just last week, the Pentagon warned of deteriorating security in Afghanistan and assessed the performance of Afghan security forces as “uneven and mixed.”
More than 2,300 U.S. troops have died in the Afghan war since the 2001 invasion, but the pace of U.S. deaths has fallen off sharply since the end of formal U.S. combat and a drawdown of American forces.
Pentagon data showed there have been 10 so-called “hostile” deaths of U.S. service members in Afghanistan this year. There have been 10 non-hostile deaths, largely from aircraft crashes.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Alistair Bell)