Kirkpatrick was killed late Monday while fighting the Taliban alongside Afghanistan forces in Helmand Province, Pentagon officials said. Helmand is a particularly restive area of Southern Afghanistan.
Kirkpatrick appears to be the first American soldier to die in the province this year. He was hit by indirect mortar attack; typically that involves exploding shells or rocket rounds.
Two other soldiers were injured in the attack during the operation, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, who said the injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
Kirkpatrick was with the Fort Bliss-based 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. He was a mortarman who joined in June, 2016, according to Army Maj. James C. Bithorn, an officer with the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade. He described Kirkpatrick as “a caring, disciplined, and intelligent young soldier.”
One person he served with wrote on Facebook that Kirkpatrick was a great storyteller who used to regale his fellow soldiers with tales from Alaska. Kirkpatrick had attended a high school named for a master storyteller: Robert Service High School in Anchorage.
After graduation, Kirkpatrick enlisted, and he and 1,500 other soldiers deployed to Afghanistan in January to serve in nine-month rotations. The brigade’s soldiers embed in various regions, some working alongside U.S. Marines and Afghan forces fighting the Taliban and its most strident wing, ISIS, or the Islamic State.
The area has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks as Taliban forces have pushed for control of an area of intense opium poppy production, which is a major source of funding for the Taliban and is a primary supply of opium for the global trade.
“We will keep [Kirkpatrick’s] family in our thoughts and prayers as we reflect on the sacrifice he and others have made to secure our freedoms and help make Afghanistan a better place,” Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in a prepared statement.
For the parents and siblings of PFC Hansen Kirkpatrick, the Fourth of July will not be the same next year or the years that follow. This family became a Gold Star family on July 3, 2017, a sad designation, a somber honor that reminds us of their sacrifice for our nation.
Our hearts go out to the family, friends, and fellow soldiers of PFC Hansen Kirkpatrick.