By Devan Schwartz
It was 9:35 Monday morning in Laghman Province, Afghanistan, when Baker City's Mabry J. Anders died.
The Department of Defense on Tuesday confirmed Anders, 21, a U.S. Army specialist, and Sgt. Christopher J. Birdwell, 25, of Windsor, Colo., were killed.
Anders died "after the soldier's convoy encountered an IED (roadside bomb); he dismounted to patrol the area for secondary devices. He was then engaged with small arms fire by an Afghanistan National Army member. He died of injuries," according to an Oregon Military Department statement. Birdwell died in the same incident.
Gail Lemberger, Baker High School counselor, remembered Anders as a smart young man with a great sense of humor. He was also eager to join the military, she said. Anders graduated in 2009 from the Baker Alternative School at Haines, although he left many friends at Baker High.
"He already knew he wanted to be in the military, even as a sophomore," Lemberger said. "He told me, 'It will be good for me.' "
Tineeka Kay Fletcher said she and Anders were both 14 and in high school when they met.
"He's been my best friend my whole life," Fletcher said. "He could always make me laugh when I was down."
The two grew close, trading email, while he served in Afghanistan. They planned to marry in December when Anders would return from Afghanistan; they planned to live in Carson City, Nev.
She last saw him in person two years ago, Fletcher said.
"I will miss you so much," Fletcher wrote in a letter to Anders that she gave the Baker City Herald.
"You will always be my hero, friend, boyfriend and fiance. I will miss your sweet smile, your laugh and our long talks every night.
"You will always be in my heart. I know you will be my guardian angel, with me forever."
Anders entered the Army in January 2010 and reported to Fort Carson, Colo., in July 2011.
Anders, a wheeled-vehicle mechanic in the 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, deployed to Afghanistan March 10 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Baker City Councilor Aletha Bonebrake devoted a prayer Tuesday to Anders and his family at the Baker City Council meeting.
Bonebrake said she wanted to "take a moment of gratitude, to remember the son of Troy and Gen Woydziak, who gave his life for this great nation, in Afghanistan.
"Let us never forget those brave young men that go in our stead to protect our freedoms that we cherish and enjoy."
According to a statement from Fort Carson, Colo., Anders was a decorated soldier whose awards included:
andbull; Army Achievement Medal
andbull; National Defense Service Medal
andbull; Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one campaign star
andbull; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
andbull; Army Service Ribbon
andbull; Overseas Service Ribbon
These honors were awarded posthumously:
andbull; Bronze Star Medal
andbull; Purple Heart
andbull;Army Good Conduct Medal
andbull;Combat Action Badge
Reporters Chris Collins and Terri Harber contributed to this report.