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Ranger with local ties killed in Afghanistan

An Army Ranger with a home in Richmond Hill was killed in Afghanistan last week, according to the military.

Army Ranger Staff Sgt. Jason Sean Dahlke, 29, a Jacksonville, Fla., native, lived in Richmond Hill.

He and his wife Niki Marie Norvell Dahlke purchased a home in Richmond Hill in March 2005. Dahlke was stationed at Hunter Army Airfield while serving with Company A, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

Dahlke was reportedly one of two Rangers killed after being gunned down on Aug. 31 during combat operations in the Paktika Province. Also killed was Michigan resident Pfc. Eric William Hario, 19.

"Jason was my best friend," Nikole Dahlke said in an Army press release. "He was my hero as a person and as a soldier. He lived his life as it should have been lived. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Please extend them to the Rangers still overseas and the Hario family."

Dahlke was on his sixth deployment in support of the War on Terror with three previous deployments to Iraq and two deployments to Afghanistan.

Here is what happened, according to official reports: The Ranger task force attacked a vigorously defended enemy command and control node and logistics base in a rugged, remote, contested mountainous area. After fighting for nearly 20 hours, the Ranger task force killed more than 30 enemy fighters, several enemy leaders, destroyed the command and control node and logistics base while capturing numerous heavy weapons.

"Staff Sgt. Dahlke and Pfc. Hario heroes to their nation, the U.S. Army and their Families," said Col. Michael E. Kurilla, 75th Ranger Regiment commander. "They embodied the Ranger Creed and all that is good, noble and honored in our Rangers."

Dahlke’s father, Roger Dahlke, told the Orlando Sentinel that his son loved his job.

"It was what he wanted to do," Roger said of Jason’s career as an Army Ranger. "We all knew the dangers and the risks."

Jason Dahlke was born Nov. 8, 1979 in Tampa and raised in Jacksonville with his brother and three sisters.

According to family, he met his future wife, then named Niki Norvell, in grade school and the two moved to Orlando when Niki enrolled in a college there. The two eventually moved to Richmond Hill when Jason was stationed at Hunter.

Last Saturday, Army officials knocked on Roger Dahlke’s door, bearing the news of his son’s death.

"I opened the door and I saw them standing there. I knew," Roger Dahlke said. "It’s just a sad thing."

Fighting in Afghanistan is getting deadlier for U.S. troops.

Marine Captain Mathew Freeman, a 1998 graduate of Richmond Hill High School, died in Afghanistan Aug. 7.

Services for Dahlke are being held today in Jacksonville.

- Willoughby Mariano with the Orlando Sentinel contributed to this story.

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