The Indiana National Guard says four soldiers with an Indiana-based National Guard unit died in Afghanistan when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb.
Indiana Adjutant General Martin Umbarger said Saturday the four members of the Valparaiso-based 713th Engineer Company were clearing roadside bombs along a supply route in southern Afghanistan Thursday morning when their vehicle struck one of the bombs.
The casualties include Specialist Brian Leonhardt of Merrillville, Specialist Robert J. Tauteris Jr. of Hamlet, Specialist Christopher Patterson of Aurora, Illinois, and Staff Sgt. Jonathan Metzger of Indianapolis.
The unit and families are all trying to cope in the aftermath of the deaths of these men. .
Outside of the Indiana National Guard Armory in Valparaiso on Saturday the flag flew at half-staff as the news started to sink in.
"It's been a real tough day,” said Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Steve Hines. “We've got a lot of support from our entire organization, we are continuing to execute those things that need to be accomplished and start healing."
Hines explains the job of his men in Afghanistan is to clear roads of things like IEDs. The four soldiers killed were all in the same truck, scanning the road, when an IED hit them.
"They hit an IED that was catastrophic to that one vehicle and the occupants of that vehicle," said Hines.
One of the men is 43-year-old Specialist Robert Tauteris Jr. of Hamlet. He was on his second combat tour, side by side with his 21-year-old son Robert Tauteris III. According to their family, the father and son joined the Guard together.
The Tauteris' and their unit left for Afghanistan in October, after several months training at Camp Atterbury.
They knew their mission was dangerous, and trained for encounters with IED's. Still, the loss for this unit, their families and the country isn't any easier to cope with.
"We chose this profession of arms and unfortunately we saw the bitter cost, sacrifice that sometimes comes with that,” said Hines. “But those four individuals would want nothing more than to load back into those trucks and get out there and do their mission."
The bodies of the four soldiers will be arriving at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Tauteris is being escorted home by his son. They are expected to arrive at Dover at 6 p.m. Sunday. That's when the remains of Patterson are expected to arrive as well.
Right now they are in the process of making funeral arrangements, which of course will involve full military honors.