CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The Citadel announced Monday that one of its graduates was killed in action in the Nangahar Province of Afghanistan.
Army Sgt. Aaron Wittman, a 2007 graduate of the military school, was killed Jan. 10 when his unit was attacked by small arms fire on mounted patrol, the school reported. Wittman was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga.
"I'll never forget Aaron's humor and optimism, even in the worst of situations," said Wesley Walker, another graduate of the same year.
Wittman, 28, was the first U.S. casualty of 2013. According to The Citadel, Wittman was a former member of Lima Company and the 18th alumnus to be killed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Wittman was on his second combat deployment and had previously been awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Wittman had a strong connection to The Citadel. His father Maj. Duane L. Wittman, USA, Ret., was a 1975 graduate. His brother 1st Lt. Nicholas R. Wittman, USMC graduated in 2003. And his sister-in-law 1st Lt. Rikki Felts Wittman, USMC, graduated in 2004, the school reported.
"Aaron always liked having fun. He was a genuine person who got along with almost everyone. He always did what was asked of him and he always put his best effort forth," said Lionel Grébert, another 2007 graduate.
Citadel alumni serving in Afghanistan will be holding a memorial service for Wittman at Bagram Air Base.