Bennington

Soldier dies in Afghan attack

Friends remember former Pierce student

BENNINGTON — A former Bennington resident, Staff Sgt. Liam J. Nevins, 32, of Denver, Colo., was killed Sept. 21 by enemy insurgents during a military training exercise in Afghanistan.

Nevins, who was assigned to the Colorado Army National Guard’s 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, Watkins, Colo., grew up in Bennington and had attended Pierce Elementary School, as well as Great Brook School in Antrim, according to school officials.

During a range training exercise at the Forward Operating Base Shank in Gardez, the Paktia Province of Afghanistan, enemy forces attacked the training unit with small arms fire, which killed Nevins and two other soldiers, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Defense on Sept. 24.

In a statement issued last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said, “We are eternally indebted to Staff Sgt. Liam Nevins for his service and commitment to our country and to the Colorado Army National Guard. His life was cut short, along with two of his fellow soldiers, during his fourth deployment in the defense of our nation. He was a true American hero. Sgt. Nevins’ family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers as we join the nation in mourning his death.”

Everybody’s devastated in Bennington, said family friend Lesley McGregor of Bennington. She knew Nevins because her daughter, Jessica Brown, was close friends with one of Nevins’ sisters, Raven. “I was surprised when I found out he went into the military,” McGregor said in an interview Monday. “He was such a small child, and he was a very sweet child.”

Another friend of the Nevins family, Tim Sysyn of Hancock, said he was friends with Nevins’ father, and spent a lot of time watching over Nevins, who played with his daughter, Talya Sysyn.

“He was a very imaginative and creative kid, very bright,” Tim Sysyn said.

Sysyn said Nevins was close with his daughter, and generally well-liked. “He was friendly towards everybody.”

Sysyn described the Nevins family as one that was socially conscious and Nevins reflected that as a child. “He was somebody who you could talk to about current events and politics as a kid. He had a general empathy for people who suffered from poverty, he was a sensitive kid.”

According to Sysyn, Nevins is survived by his mother, Victoria, his father, William, his two older sisters, Mauve and Raven, and his fiance.

Talya Sysyn said in an interview Monday that Nevins cared for all people. “He was a really quiet and creative soul, and an earthy person,” Talya said.

In an interview Monday, Staff Sgt. Marcus Butler of the U.S. Department of Defense said Nevins had completed airborne training and a special forces urban advanced combat course, which featured some sniper training. Nevins was on his way to becoming a green beret.

Nevins enlisted in the U.S. Army under the delayed entry program, prior to his graduation from Bristol Borough High School in Bristol, Pa., according to a press release issued by the U.S. Army Special Forces Command on Sept. 24. He was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Fort Bragg, N.C. In 2003, he deployed as a sergeant with the 504th as a rifle team leader in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan. In 2004 and 2005, he served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nevins attended the Metropolitan State College of Denver from August 2006 to May 2009, after leaving active duty service. In May 2009, Nevins enlisted in the Colorado Army National Guard. He attended the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg, N.C., from January 2012 to August 2011.

Butler said Nevins was recovering from an undisclosed injury at the time of the attack for which he received the Purple Heart.

The press release issued by the Special Forces Command on Nevins includes a long list of medals the sergeant received over the years, including this recent Purple Heart with the Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster — his second Purple Heart Award — an Army Commendation Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters — his third Commendation Award — and an Army Achievement Medal with the Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster — his second Achievement Award.

Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or larceci@ledgertranscript.com.

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