CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Two special forces soldiers, including one from Chicopee, were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced Thursday.
According to the Pentagon, 31-year-old Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa of Chicopee, and 35-year-old Jose J. Gonzalez of La Puente, California, were killed in combat operations in Faryab Providence, Afghanistan. Both soldiers were posthumously promoted to Master Sergeant.
DeLeon-Figueroa and Gonzalez were assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. They were supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel on August 21 and died from wounds they suffered from “small arms fire while engaged in combat operations.”
According to the Pentagon, the incident is being investigated. Congressman Richard Neal sent 22News this statement:
I am deeply saddened by the death of Special Forces Soldier Luis DeLeon-Figueroa of Chicopee who was killed yesterday defending our country in Afghanistan. Master Sergeant DeLeon-Figueroa is an American hero who served with honor and distinction. A grateful nation mourns his loss.Congressman Richard E. Neal
Master Sgt. DeLeon-Figueroa, who had been with the Army for 13 years, grew up in Chicopee and would have turned 32 on August 23. His foster family told 22News he had a passion for sports and loved his Puerto Rican heritage, but his greatest joy was protecting his country.
“Biggest memory I think of Luis was when he called me being so proud that he became a Green Beret,” said his foster father, Bill Campbell. “He was like ecstatic, ‘I’ve become somebody dad.’ He said ‘I’m what you thought I was going to be when I was younger.’ I said ‘Luis it just took focus and discipline,’ I said ‘you did it all yourself. Be proud of what you did.'”
Bill and Lisa Campbell met Luis when he was just seven-years-old and they became family. Bill was coaching football for the Chicopee Braves at the time, and as fate would have it, Luis began playing for his team.
Right off the bat, they had an inseparable bond. Luis started staying weekends at their home with the couple and their four children. Weekends turned into full-time once Master Sgt. DeLeon-Figueroa was in high school, during which he made the decision to enlist in the US Army.
“He would sing in the shower very loudly, I’m proud to be an American by Lee Greenwood,” Lisa shared with 22News. “He would sing it so loud. All the other kids were yelling at him. He was just really proud, proud to be a soldier. He wouldn’t have had it any other way, that was his life.”
Bill added, “He just had signed up for his fourth tour or fourth enlistment, he called us and said ‘what do you think should I re-enlist or come home?’ He said ‘I think I’ll stay in,’ that was the last decision we talked about.”
In addition to the Campbells, Master Sgt. DeLeon-Figueroa leaves behind a grandmother, sister, his fiance, and two children.
His foster mother told 22News there is currently no date set on when his body will be returned home, but he will be buried in Agawam at the Veterans Cemetery.
Master Sgt. DeLeon-Figueroa received the following awards during his 13-year service in the U.S. Army (not all awards are listed):
- Bronze Star
- Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device
- Special Forces Tab
- Ranger Tab
- Combat Infantryman Badge
- Expert Infantryman Badge
- Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Badge
- Parachutist Badge
- Air Assault Badge
22News would like to thank Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa for his service.