35-year-old Army Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Hairston died on August 12 in Ghazni, Afghanistan. He sustained injuries from enemy troops in a small arms battle with his unit.
Hairston, from Houston, was a decorated soldier. Before entering the Army in 2003, he was a star player for the University of Houston football team. Recruited from Shalimar, Florida, he played the defensive line for the Cougars from 1997 t0 2000.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Hairston was a platoon sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, N.C.
Freedom Remembered, a site devoted to remembering the troops who have lost their lives while serving in the U.S. Military, lists Hairston as a highly decorated soldier who has received Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Meritorious Service Medals. They also state he held Afghanistan and Iraq Campaign medals with two stars each.
KPBS reported that Hairston’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Chris Hockenberry, released a statement. In it, he wrote:
“Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Hairston was an exceptional non-commissioned officer and a valued member of our team. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time. We will never forget him.”
As reported by Click 2 Houston, Hairston’s friends, family and UH football fans think of him fondly. On Cougar sports blogs, fans remembered him as a hero on both the football field and the battlefield.
Hairston is survived by his wife, Staff Sgt. Tawana Hairston, and his son, Hayden.
According to the Associated Press, with the death of Hairston, U.S. military losses hits 2,199 soldiers since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001. The U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan is scheduled to remove all U.S. combat forces by the end of 2016.
The Huffington Post reported that according to military numbers at least 1,821 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result of hostile action. The Defense Department also count three military civilian deaths. Almost 20,000 U.S. service member have been wounded in hostile action since the start of U.S. Military Operations in Afghanistan.