Guilderland grad killed in Afghanistan

A Guilderland High School graduate and Army specialist was killed Sunday, July 10, during a firefight in Afghanistan.

Rafael A. Nieves Jr., 22, died in Paktika Province in the east of that war-torn country when his mounted patrol came under attack by enemy forces, according to information from the Department of Defense.

He is survived by his wife, Sarah A. McKinney; daughter, Emma Grace Nieves; son, Rafael A. Nieves III, all of Oak Grove, Ky.; his father Rafael A. Nieves Sr. of Schenectady; and his mother, Tina R. Roman of Bayonne, N.J.

Flags at all state government buildings were ordered flown at half staff on Thursday, July 14, in honor of Nieves, including at Guilderland High School, where Nieves graduated from in 2008.

\Rafael was a child who always had a goal to be in the military. He overcame many challenges during his high school career which enabled him to reach that goal, said Guilderland Central School District Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Demian Singleton. "We were very proud to see him persevere and find success in the military. Our thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time."

Nieves was an infantryman in the 101st Airborne Division, having joined the Army in 2009. His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star; North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; and Army Service Ribbon.""

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