A Santa Maria soldier killed in Afghanistan on Friday is being remembered as someone who made others laugh, rarely complained and left an “indelible impression” on his colleagues.
Army Spc. Kenneth Clifford Alvarez, 23, of Santa Maria, and Pvt. Jonathon Michael Dean Hostetter, 20, of Humphreys, Mo., died while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, the Department of Defense announced Sunday.
Defense officials said the two men died in Haft Asiab, Afghanistan, “from wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device during combat operations.”
Both soldiers were assigned to the 40th Mobility Augmentation Company (MAC), 2nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
As word of his death spread, soldiers who served with Alvarez remembered him on Facebook, some using his photo as their own profile pictures.
One soldier who served with Alvarez on a different deployment remembered him in a poignant post.
He was my gunner for most of the deployment and one of the platoon ‘clowns.’ One of the best individuals I came across. He rarely complained and always found a way to make people laugh,” Casper Yi posted on Facebook. “You made the ultimate sacrifice for your country and you will never be forgotten. You left an indelible impression on us all.
“I will miss your sense of humor, that ridiculous comb-over, and your personality. Words cannot express the sorrow we feel from your loss. You would have done anything for your teammates, no matter the situation. I thank you for looking after me and taking care of your brethren,” Yi added.
Alvarez, a combat engineer, enlisted in the Army in November 2011, Army officials said.
Before arriving at White Sands, he was with the 42nd Route Clearance Company in Bamberg, Germany.
In March 2013 he was assigned to the 2nd Engineer Battalion at White Sands Missile Range.
Upon arrival, he requested to join the 40th MAC in Afghanistan, according to Army officials. The unit had deployed a few weeks earlier.
Alvarez, reportedly a member of the Delta High School Class of 2009, is survived by his wife and child, whose names weren’t released. He also has several other relatives on the Central Coast.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Additionally, White Sands Missile Range likely will hold a memorial service for its two fallen soldiers, but it’s too soon to know when that will take place, a spokeswoman said.
“Sadly, we lost two brave comrades from 40th MAC, 2nd Engineer Battalion. This is yet another sad day for Team WSMR as we’ve lost two teammates from among our ranks,” said Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham, commander of White Sands Missile Range. “Our brave men and women are risking their lives daily in the fulfillment of their mission.”
Bingham noted that Alvarez and Hostetter “paid the supreme sacrifice with their lives.
“We will never forget them and their families and what they stood for as they dedicated themselves to a life of selfless service and commitment to our nation. We will continually keep their spouses, families and the entire 2nd Engineer Battalion uplifted in our thoughts and prayers,” Bingham said.
Hostetter, also a combat engineer, entered the Army in September 2012. Before arriving at WSMR, he was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. He deployed to Afghanistan to join the 40th MAC in April 2013.
This was Hostetter’s first deployment. He is survived by his wife, whose name wasn’t released.
Since the 2nd Engineer Battalion was located at White Sands Missile Range in spring 2008, the unit has had six soldiers die in combat, according to a spokeswoman.