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.
NATO?s office in Afghanistan said that two soldiers were killed Tuesday, one in Khogyani, and the other during an engagement with insurgents in the Sangin district of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. The statement did not give names of the soldiers or their nationalities.
Jim Connolly said he had talked to his son by phone on Sunday, when Ryan Connolly described an intense, four-hour firefight that broke out when his unit walked into an ambush while approaching a village at 2 a.m.
The soldiers dropped to the ground, with machine gun tracer rounds flying over their heads, Jim Connolly said. They were pinned down until daylight, when helicopters arrived and strafed the village.
Jim Connolly said the conversation left him with ?a funny feeling.?
Ryan Connolly came home on leave in April, bringing his family to Santa Rosa. He purchased a 1970 Chevy Nova, which he was planning to restore.
Connolly attended Schaefer Elementary School, Comstock Middle School and Piner High School. He played on Little League all-star baseball teams as a child, and shifted his interest to automobiles in high school, his father said.
His son had previously said he enjoyed the military camaraderie and the adrenaline from the danger he faced. But he had tired of the human misery in Afghanistan, an impoverished country torn by violence.
?He was ready to come home,? Jim Connolly said. ?You can only take so much.?
The soldier?s mother, Robin Nelson, lives in Vacaville.
His brother, Mike Connolly, 29, lives in Santa Rosa, and his sister, Kelly Connolly, 25, lives in San Francisco.