ST. GEORGE – A 27-year-old Utah National Guard member from San Juan County was killed in Afghanistan Wednesday when a building he and his team were clearing exploded. The incident also left 11 others injured.
Gov. Gary Herbert confirmed Thursday during a press conference that a 12-member team of the Utah National Guard had been involved in an incident in a “booby-trapped” building that turned deadly for Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler, 27, of Monticello, Utah.
The Utah National Guard later confirmed via a news release that Butler and the others are a part of the 1st Bravo Company, 19th Special Force Group (Airborne).
While the governor did not release any names of the soldiers involved at the time, Butler was subsequently identified as the soldier who had been killed. His family released the following statement Thursday:
The Army values are: ‘Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless-Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage’. Aaron Butler personified those values in everything he said and did. In a life that was all too brief, our dear son and brother made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. While we are heartbroken to become a Gold Star family, we honor Aaron’s service and sacrifice. Aaron was a strength to us, an inspiration to those around him, and a joy to have in our family.
Eight members of the National Guard team are from Utah, Herbert said, while three are from other states. Each suffered “various degrees of injury,” the governor said.
“I will be calling and contacting the families today that have been involved in this incident to let them know of our concern and our support and our condolences. Certainly, it’s a tragedy for them and a tragedy for all of us,” Herbert said.
According to the San Juan Record, Butler was a Special Forces Green Beret and graduated with honors from the qualification course in January 2016.
A press release from the National Guard said Butler’s team was in eastern Afghanistan and engaged in operations against ISIS groups in the region.
“My heart aches for the loss and sacrifice of our members and their families,” Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, said Wednesday. “I know that what we do is dangerous and important work for our country’s defense, but this realization does little to console me during times of loss such as this.”
“Tragedies like this serves as a harsh reminder of what is asked of our military, and the threat is very real. Let no one forget the service and sacrifice of those brave men and women on watch for our nation’s defense,” Ileen Kennedy, a spokesperon for the Utah National Guard said in a news release. “Please keep all of our patriots in your thoughts and prayers.”
Gov. Gary Herbert, among others, have issued statements expressing their condolences and support for Bulter’s family.
Jeanette and I were heartbroken to hear of the passing of one of Utah’s best, Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler. Tonight, we join all Utahns in grieving for him, and honoring his sacrifice — the ultimate sacrifice. Our hearts ache for his family, friends and loved ones, and they will long be on our minds and in our prayers.
We pray also for the 11 members of his group who were injured in the explosion. May their healing come swiftly, and may they find comfort and strength through the coming weeks and months as they work toward recovery.
It truly isn’t possible to offer adequate thanks to those who put their lives on the line day after day in the defense of freedom around the world. May God’s greatest blessings graciously fall upon those brave men and women who are dedicated to the service of their fellowmen.
The San Jan County Commission:
Yesterday, while on a mission in Afghanistan, Aaron Butler was killed by enemy forces.
Our hearts are broken. We are devastated. Our prayers and support are sent to the Butler family at this sad time.
We will remember Aaron as a man that gave his life so that we may continue to live in the land of the free. His selfless service will not go unremembered or unthanked because we will remember and show gratitude to his family.
We also send our prayers to the other members of Aaron’s unit that were wounded during the mission and wish them a speedy recovery.
May we never take our freedoms for granted or let a day go by without showing gratitude to the men and women who fight for our country.
Butler’s body is being flown to Dover, Maryland, and will eventually be released to the family.
Members of Utah’s Congressional delegation also expressed their condolences over social media.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah
My heart goes out to the family of the Guardsman we lost in Afghanistan. It’s reminder that we live in a dangerous world.
— Rep. Chris Stewart (@RepChrisStewart) August 17, 2017
Brave me & women and their families sacrifice every day to help protect us. On behalf of all you Utah’s we are grateful for their sacrifice
— Rep. Chris Stewart (@RepChrisStewart) August 17, 2017
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) August 17, 2017
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah
My heart goes out to the Butler family on the loss of their son Aaron. I am very grateful for all our service men and women who put their lives on the line for our nation. I will pray for all our Utah families who have loved ones serving in Afghanistan today.
Ed. norte: This story has been updated with additional information from the Utah National Guard and additional comments from Gov. Gary Harbert.
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