A U.S. soldier killed in Iraq over the weekend has been identified by the Pentagon as 1st Lt. Weston C. Lee, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. Lee died after an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated during a patrol near Mosul, according to the division.
Lee, a native of Bluffton, Georgia, was conducting security as part of advise-and-assist support to partnered forces when the IED went off, the Department of Defense said in a statement Sunday. An investigation into the incident has been launched, according to the department. This was reportedly the 25-year-old's first deployment.
Lee became a platoon leader after joining the Army in 2015. Last December, he was deployed to Iraq as a part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-Islamic State group fight that comprises of coalition nations working with partners in Iraq and Syria.
"1LT Wes Lee was an extraordinary young man and officer. He was exactly the type of leader that our Paratroopers deserve," Col. Pat Work, Falcon 6, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said in a statement on the division’s Facebook page. "Our sincere condolences and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time."
He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, and Meritorious Service Medal posthumously. His other awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Ranger Tab, the Parachutist Badge, and the Army Service Ribbon, according to the division.
Lee’s brother Chester posted a brief statement Sunday on Facebook.
"God has gained himself one hell of a soldier," Chester wrote in a Facebook post. "My brother, my friend, Weston Lee died in Iraq yesterday. And I am completely and utterly devastated. Right now I and my family could use your prayers and love. I will miss you Weston but I know right now your telling God whats the next mission."
Lee’s high school Southwest Georgia Academy (SGA) also took to Facebook to pay tribute to him.
“The SGA family mourns the loss of one of our own this morning. SGA Alum Weston Lee. Your dedication and sacrifice for our Country will never be forgotten. Prayers and thoughts for his loved ones and all those that knew and loved Weston. Once a Warrior, Always a Warrior,” the statement read.
Lee was one of over 1,800 soldiers from 2nd Brigade deployed in Iraq to support the warn-torn country’s efforts to battle the Islamic State group (also called ISIS). His death is the second American military fatality since the beginning of the operation to retake Mosul from ISIS over six months ago. In October, 34-year-old Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan died in an IED explosion near Mosul.
Lee's death was the third U.S. casualty this week in the global fight against ISIS. On April 27, two Army Rangers were killed during an operation against an ISIS affiliate in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan.