Santa Rosa soldier killed in Afghanistan

Ryan James Connolly, a 24-year-old Army paratrooper who grew up in Santa Rosa, was killed by a bomb blast in a remote area of Afghanistan, his father said Tuesday.

Connolly, who had just been promoted to sergeant, was riding in a vehicle with four other troops. One other soldier was killed and three were severely wounded, said his father, Jim Connolly.

He is the 12th North Coast casualty in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the second to die in Afghanistan.

Connolly served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade based near Khogyani in the eastern Afghanistan province of Nangarhar near the Pakistani border.

A graduate of Piner High School, he joined the Army in December, 2005 and had re-enlisted while in Afghanistan, extending his military duty from four years to six years.

He was due to come home with his unit in 14 days, his father said.

Jim Connolly said he received word of his son?s death Tuesday afternoon in a phone call from Ryan?s wife, Stephi, 23, in Germany. The couple?s daughter, Kayla, celebrated her first birthday on June 13.

?I was devastated,? said Jim Connolly, a Santa Rosa mortgage broker.

Nearly 2,000 people have died in insurgency-related violence this year in Afghanistan. They include more than 100 foreign troops, many of them killed by mines and bombs detonated next to convoys.

Last month, Army Ranger Spc. Christopher Gathercole, 21, of Santa Rosa, was killed in Afghanistan after being wounded by small-arms fire during combat operations in Ghazni.

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