A Sachem alum and Farmingville native was killed Friday in a firefight in eastern Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Jason Anthony Santora, 25, a member of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment based in Fort Benning, Ga., died in Logar province.
In a statement Friday, NATO said five insurgents were killed in a battle and that the casualties came during a joint military operation with Afghan forces at a compound in the Puli Alam district.
Santora, who graduated from Sachem in 2003 and enlisted in March 2006, was on his fourth deployment, with one previously in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. For more than three years, he was a mortar platoon ammunition bearer and a rifle team leader. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal. His remains arrived at Dover Air Force Base, Del. on Sunday.
Sgt. Ronald Alan Kubik, 22, of Brielle, N.J, also died in the attack.
"Sergeant Kubik and Sergeant Santora were warriors, true patriots and absolute heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation," said Col. Michael E. Kurilla, commander, 75th Ranger Regiment, in a Special Operations Command (SOCOM) release. "They were the epitome of the Ranger Fire Team Leader – fearless, leading from the front, and always concerned for their men."
His awards and decorations include the Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman's Badge, and Parachutist Badge. He has also been awarded the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with combat star, Iraq Campaign Medal with two combat stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon, according to his biography on the SOCOM website.
"Sergerants Kubik and Santora were Ranger leaders of the highest caliber and brothers-in-arms who died fighting together," said Col. Dan Walrath, commander of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. "Their actions exemplify the fighting spirit of the Army Rangers and we will be eternally grateful for the examples they gave us in life."
Added Sachem Superintendent James Nolan, "I truly cannot think of anything worse than the tragic loss of a young life. It's just not supposed to be that way. I know that I can speak for the entire Sachem family when I say that Jason and his family are certainly in our thoughts and prayers. Jason is a true hero because he gave his life to help make the lives of others better."
Sgt. Santora is survived by his father Gary Santora of Medford, his mother Theresa Santora of Massapequa, his sister, Gina Santora of Medford, and his uncle Ralph Fico of Massapequa Park.