The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

June 10, 2014

Illinois soldier among 5 killed in friendly fire

Associated Press

CHICAGO — A soldier from northern Illinois who went to Afghanistan a month after his father died was among five American troops killed this week during a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan, a friend of the family said Tuesday.

Jennie Swartz, who is serving as a family spokeswoman, told The Associated Press from the family's Mokena home about 30 miles southwest of Chicago that representatives from the U.S. Army came to Pam Toppen's door in the middle of the night with news that her 19-year-old son, Aaron Toppen, had been killed Monday.

Toppen's sister, Amanda Gralewski, told the Chicago Sun-Times her brother had joined the Army after graduating from Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort. He was set to leave in February for Afghanistan, but after their father died that month, he waited until March to deploy.

Now, she said, the family is suffering a "double hit" of grief.

Gralewski said her brother was a "funny, caring, living kid" who enjoyed being outdoors and spending time with his friends and family.

"He would give the shirt off his back for anyone," she said.

The five American special operations troops were killed by a U.S. airstrike called in to help them after they were ambushed by the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

A Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said the five American troops were killed Monday "during a security operation in southern Afghanistan" and said that investigators "are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause."