NRHS graduate killed in Afghanistan

Published 12:57 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sgt. Charles Strong and his wife, Taylor.

Sgt. Charles Strong and his wife, Taylor.

A 2003 graduate of Nansemond River High School has been killed in an apparent insider attack while serving in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marines.

Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Strong, 28, died Monday in Herat province at the hands of a member of the Afghan National Army, according to the International Security Assistance Force and a U.S. Marine Corps spokesman.

The Pentagon listed Strong’s hometown as Suffolk. On Facebook, his wife, Taylor, lists her home address as Wilmington, N.C., a one-hour drive from Camp Lejeune, where Sgt. Strong was based with the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command.

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According to a fundraising Web page set up by a friend — whose total exceeded $10,000 late Wednesday — Taylor Strong is due to deliver a baby girl in December.

Friends knew Strong as “Chuck Diesel,” according to Stephen Wright, who posted a tribute on a Facebook link to an early story about the Marine’s death.

“He was a marine’s marine,” said Wright, a 2000 graduate of Nansemond River High School with Charles Strong’s brother Jasen. “Everyone from that community and this one in addition to his family are suffering.”

Thomas McLemore, principal at Nansemond River, recalled Strong as “an outstanding young man” who “always had a smile on his face.”

“He was a very focused young man,” McLemore said, adding that he understood Strong took half-days at the Pruden Center for automotive mechanics.

McLemore was unaware his former student had joined the Marines. Thursday’s minute of silence at the school would be dedicated to Strong, he said. “I will say something to the faculty and the kids,” he added.

Wednesday’s City Council meeting also observed a moment of silence in Strong’s honor.

Though the Pentagon says Strong’s death is under investigation, an International Security Assistance Force news release said a force member died “as a result of an individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turning his weapon against ISAF members in western Afghanistan” on Monday.

ISAF’s policy is to defer to “the relevant national authorities” for casualty identification, but Capt. Barry J. Morris, public affairs officer with the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, confirmed Strong was the victim.

“I can confirm that, yes, the report from ISAF with respect to the green-on-blue incident is related to Sgt. Strong’s death,” Morris said. “I can’t comment any further than that. This particular incident is under investigation from ISAF and local Afghanistan officials.”

According to a biography provided by Morris, Strong reported for basic training to the Marine Corp Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C., the year he graduated from Nansemond River.

He was promoted to Private First Class at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where he took the Motor Transport Operators Course before reporting in March 2004 to aviation ground support unit Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.

That same month Strong began six months of training as a military police officer, at the end of which he was promoted to Lance Corporal.

In February 2005, Strong deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, serving as a motor transport operator with the 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines.

Promoted to corporal in October 2005, Strong received orders to attend a vehicle recovery course — a specialized training course for top motor transport operators — that December.

After requesting the deployment, Strong returned to Iraq as the 3rd Battalion and supporting units’ only vehicle recovery operator. In July 2007, he accepted orders to Officer Candidate School back at Quantico, becoming a non-commissioned officer supporting the Training Companies.

Promoted to sergeant that October, Strong was selected for the Physical Training Instructor section after his first training cycle as a support NCO.

Strong first deployed to Afghanistan in February 2011 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, serving as a team leader and navigator for all logistical mounted patrols.

When he returned stateside, he joined Marine Special Operations Team 8214 after beginning training and applying for selection to the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.

During his career with the Marines, Strong was decorated with the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (second award), the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (third award) and the Combat Action Ribbon.

To one of the scores of retweets of a U.S. Marines tweet announcing Strong’s death, Susan Stephens, identifying herself as a “USMC Mom,” added, “My Deepest Condolences to Sgt. Charles Family and Friends. We all will see you on the other side Marine.”

McLemore said the death of any young person is always tragic. “A parent never thinks they are going to have to bury their child. It’s a hard thing to deal with,” he said.

“I think as parents we have to look back and realize you made sure you told them how much you love them and care about them every day, because you just never know,” he said.

“He was an outstanding young man. We are grateful for what he has done. Obviously he enjoyed his career and was doing what he loved to do.”

Stephen Wright, the family friend and fellow NRHS graduate, noted on Facebook that Jasen Strong would be accompanying his brother’s body home from Afghanistan.

A fundraising page for the family has been set up at