The death Monday of Indiana National Guard Spc. Sergio E. Perez, of Schererville, added to the toll of Northwest Indiana soldiers killed or injured this year in combat in Afghanistan.
Perez and Spc. Nicholas A. Taylor, of Berne, Ind., were killed during an attack that included fire from rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.
Perez and Taylor were with the Valparaiso-headquartered 713th Engineer Co. and were the fifth and sixth members of the unit to die this year in Afghanistan, including three others from the Northwest Indiana area.
Sgt. Brian Leonhardt, 21, of Merrillville; Spc. Christopher Patterson, 20, a Valparaiso University student from Aurora, Ill.; and Spc. Robert Tauteris Jr, 44, of Hamlet, Ind., were killed Jan. 6 when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb while serving with the 713th Engineer Co. in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Metzger, 32, of Indianapolis, also was killed by the roadside bomb. Spc. Doug Rachowicz, of Hammond, was badly injured.
Rachowicz, 30, continues to be treated for his injuries in a Maryland hospital, his father Gerald Rachowicz said Tuesday.
Patterson was an accomplished musician with what friends and family said was beautiful tenor voice. He'd been a music major at Valparaiso University.
"He was a real angel who came into our life," his father, Robert Patterson, said at a February celebration of his son's life.
Leonhardt had been the sixth of eight children and was a graduate of Hammond Baptist High School. He'd been in Afghanistan a little more than a month when he was killed.
Army Staff Sgt. David Nowaczyk, 32, of Dyer, was killed in a separate incident April 15 in Afghanistan when his vehicle was attacked with an explosive device.
Nowaczyk is a 1997 graduate of Lake Central High School. He was less than a month away from his 33rd birthday when he was killed.