A Panama, Okla., man was killed in Tsamkani, Afghanistan Monday (June 3) while serving in the United States Army.
Spc. Robert A. Pierce, 20, was among those killed when his unit was attacked by a “suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device,” according to a news release from the Department of Defense.
Pierce was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), based in Fort Campbell, Ky.
Officials say he joined the Army in 2011 and served in South Korea before coming to Fort Campbell.
"He joined the military to make a difference, not only in his life, but in everyone's life," said Kyle Dart, his brother.
Pierce’s awards include a National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and an Overseas Service Ribbon.
Pierce is survived by his wife Christian M. Pierce of Huntington, Ark., and his parents, Randy R. Pierce of Panama, Okla., and Lonnetta R. Dart of Hartford, Ark., according to a statement from the Airborne Division.
"This tragedy has left our family broken," Dart said. "We would like to thank everyone who has brought us food, sent their condolences, or just said a prayer."
Some of Pierce's family members will travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to escort his body home, according Dart.
"At this time, we just want to be together and go see our hero home," Dart said.
Pierce attended school in Panama, Okla., before transferring and graduating from Mansfield High School.
"He was loved by so many and had personal connections in many places," Dart said. “All he talked about was wanting to come home and provide for his wife and family.”
While in high school, Pierce worked at the Bulldog Diner in Greenwood, where Dart says he learned to cook the perfect steak. A former coworker said it was his first job.
“He was so nervous and everything, and then he finally got the hang of it,” said Amber Fry. “He worked here for about three years, and he actually became the steak cook, the main steak cook. Best steaks ever."
Pierce was also passionate about auto mechanics. When he wasn’t working at the diner, friends say you could find him working on his truck.
“He could tell you the ins and outs on an engine,” said Austin Pennington, a fellow Mansfield graduate and former coworker. “He loved working on vehicles."
"He had this one blue truck," said Fry. "He put every bit of his money into it. Every money that he made [at the diner], he put into it. He made sure the engine was running, he had it colored, he had it running loud, he put subs in it. I mean, he was in love with his truck totally in love with it."
That is until he met his wife, Christian, who also graduated from Mansfield High School. According to friends, the two were married in April of this year and have a son on the way.
"They fell hard fast,” Fry said. “Allan was never the type of guy to have a girlfriend so when he found her, he knew it was her."
Pierce was also well-known at the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office, where his father-in-law Sgt. Steve Cox and Dart work.
“He had family and friends across the entire area and he touched everyone he came into contact with,” Dart said.
Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor released the following statement Wednesday: "I join all Arkansans in mourning the death of an American hero, U.S. Army Specialist Robert A. Pierce, who lost his life while serving in Afghanistan. Our state and nation will be forever grateful for his sacrifice. My heartfelt prayers are with the Pierce family during this difficult time."
Funeral arrangements are pending with Edwards Funeral Home in Fort Smith, according to an obituary posted online.