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One of First Openly Gay Married US Troops Killed in Afghan Blast

  • VOA News

FILE - A U.S. flag hangs off of a housing unit inside of Bagram Air Field in the Parwan province of Afghanistan, Jan. 2, 2015.

FILE - A U.S. flag hangs off of a housing unit inside of Bagram Air Field in the Parwan province of Afghanistan, Jan. 2, 2015.

Among those killed Monday when a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a patrol in southern Afghanistan was the first openly gay female U.S. soldier to die in combat.

The Pentagon identified 36-year-old Air Force Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen as one of the six troops killed in the blast.

In 2012, she married her partner Heather Lamb in what was one of the first marriages involving an openly gay service member since President Barack Obama repealed the nearly 20-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. That rule kept openly gay people from serving in the U.S. military.

"Our consolation is, we know she wanted to be there, she believe in and loved her work, and she was doing important work on behalf of the Afghans and our nation," Lamb said about her wife in messages to U.S. media.

Another of those killed Monday was Technical Sergeant Joseph Lemm, who was on leave from the New York City Police Department while deployed for his second time in Afghanistan. NYPD Commissioner William Bratton called Lemm one of the city's "finest" and said he "epitomized the selflessness we can only strive for."

Tuesday night in New York's Madison Square Garden, 18,000 people attending a hockey game between the New York Rangers and Anaheim Ducks observed a moment of silence for Lemm while his picture was displayed on the video board above the ice.

The six deaths bring the number of American soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan this year to 10. Another 10 have been killed in non-combat situations, including multiple helicopter crashes.

There are still 9,800 U.S. troops in the country as part of a mission to advise and assist Afghan troops. The U.S.-led NATO combat mission in the country ended a year ago after 13 years and 2,349 American deaths, according to Pentagon data.

A U.S. Department of Defense report released last week said the Afghan forces have "uneven" capacity to hold territory they clear and "remain in a primarily defensive posture that limits their agility across the country." The report cites a 27 percent increase in their casualties this year.

The U.N.'s envoy to Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom told the Security Council on Monday there has been an "overall deterioration" in security in the country. He said Afghan troops are "stretched to capacity" and need better logistics, administration and efforts to boost morale. He also urged progress on the political front, saying the country's unity government needs to show increasing effectiveness in the next year.