SANDY — A soldier from Sandy was killed Tuesday in Afghanistan when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device, according to the Department of Defense.
Spc. Preston J. Suter, 22, had been serving as a military policeman in Afghanistan since April, his mother Patricia Middleton said. Suter graduated in 2007 from Alta High School — where he played on the varsity basketball team — and had been pursuing a degree in criminal investigation at Snow College when he joined the military to serve his country and help pay for his education.
"He was an awesome kid," said Middleton, who lives in West Valley City. "He was so loveable."
Also killed were Staff Sgt. Joshua A. Throckmorton, 28, of Battle Creek, Mich., and Spc. Jordan C. Schumann, 24, of Port Saint Lucie, Fla. The soldiers were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and were assigned to the 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, Hohenfels, Germany.
The attack occurred in Paktia province, Afghanistan.
Middleton said her son loved the military, but he had also expressed anxiety about serving in Afghanistan. He did not tell her he had enlisted until two days before he was sent overseas, and she said she has worried about him every day since.
Prior to his tour in Afghanistan, Suter had been stationed in Germany, where he met and recently married his wife, Nicole, in April.
"It's the worst thing in the world to bury your child," Middleton said Thursday. "He was going to come home on leave with Nicole and instead he came home in a box."
Middleton met her daughter-in-law for the first time on Wednesday, when Suter's family met at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive Suter's remains. Middleton described her as a "sweetheart" and said Suter loved his wife very much.
The couple met while Nicole was working at a military store at the base where Suter was stationed.
"The story that we got told last night was that he kept going in and going in and going in until she finally went out with him," Middleton said. "That sounds like Preston — persistent."
Alta High School basketball coach Jim Barker said Suter had a good work ethic and was always liked by the other players. At 6 feet 3 inches tall, Suter was often undersized in his position, Barker said, and put in a lot of practice to raise his skill level.
Off the court, Suter was just as motivated. Barker remembers a time when members of the team helped him move homes and Suter, he said, consistently volunteered for the more difficult tasks.
"He was willing to do the extra little hard stuff and that's how he was on the basketball court," Barker said. "It was just his nature to be a hardworking kid."
Samantha Suter described her brother as a strong man and said his military service and his goal of becoming a police officer fit his personality. She said the two of them were very close, especially when they were children.
"He was really loving and he cared about everybody and everything," she said.
Samantha Suter is organizing a candlelight vigil in her brother's honor. It will be held today at 8 p.m. at Alta High School.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued condolences to the Suter family and said state flags will fly at half staff on the day of Suter's memorial services.
"The entire state of Utah mourns with the family of Specialist Suter," Herbert said. "Deeply grateful for the incomparable price he has paid while honorably defending our nation and freedom. Jeanette and I offer sincere condolences to his wife and parents, and heartfelt thanks on behalf of all the people of Utah for his service to the country and this state."