WINCHESTER, Va. (AP) – One of two members of the Virginia National Guard killed during the weekend by an explosive in Afghanistan had planned to retire in six months.

The Guard on Monday identified the soldiers killed as Staff Sgt. Craig W. Cherry, 39, of Winchester, and Sgt. Bobby E. Beasley, 36, of Inwood, W.Va.

Cherry was scheduled to retire from the Guard in six months. He leaves behind a wife, two teenage children and an 8-month-old son.

“I never thought this would happen,” said his father, Roy Cherry, of Windham, Maine, where Craig Cherry spent much of his childhood. “And it hurts. It hurts bad.”

Cherry and Beasley were among the nearly 600 members of the 3rd Battalion, based in Winchester, that arrived in Afghanistan less than a month ago.

An Afghan interpreter also was killed in the attack Saturday in Ghazni province.

It was not clear who carried out the bombing about 140 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul.

But the site lies in territory near Pakistan where suspected Taliban-led rebels regularly clash with U.S. and Afghan troops.

Maj. Gen. Claude A. Williams, Virginia adjutant general, said the unit’s missions have included intelligence gathering, security patrols and manning traffic control points to prepare for upcoming elections.

Cherry entered the Army after graduating from high school in Virginia. Roy Cherry said his son told him before leaving that “the kids that I’m taking over there don’t know what they’re doing.”

Bobby Beasley’s nickname was “Lightning Rod,” his brother said Monday night.

Several years ago, lightning indictly hit both his brother and Cherry during an annual training exercise, John Beasley said. Neither was seriously injured.

Plans for memorial services are being made by the soldiers’ families, Williams said.

AP-ES-08-09-04 2318EDT


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