SNELLVILLE - A Shiloh High School graduate was one of nine soldiers killed Sunday in an insurgent raid that penetrated an American outpost in eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
Cpl. Jon Ayers, 24, was among those killed in the deadliest incident for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since June 2005, when 16 American soldiers were killed as a rocket-propelled grenade shot down a helicopter.
Snellville resident Bill Ayers said this was his son's first tour of duty. He was scheduled to return home in less than a month.
"We had already started buying decorations for the house," Bill Ayers said. "His mom (Suzanne) was going to surprise him in New York and fly back with him. It's tough."
Bill Ayers said his family has received a lot of support from friends and neighbors. He said his son would want people to know he was proud of his country and proud of the guys with whom he served.
"If they hadn't have done their jobs, there would have been more deaths," he said. "We're proud of our son."
Bill Ayers said his son left college to join the service in April 2006. He said Jon was always interested in joining the military.
Jon was involved in the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps during all four years of high school, reaching the rank of corps commander during his senior year, Bill Ayers said.
Jon Ayers graduated in 2002 from Shiloh High, said Jorge Quintana, spokesman for Gwinnett County Public Schools.
He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy.
The newly built outpost in Wanat, Afghanistan, was attacked before dawn by small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades, the Associated Press reported.
A former provincial governor in the region said scores of attackers included a mix of Afghan- and Pakistan-based militants, some with al-Qaida links.
A NATO official said they used houses, shops and a mosque for cover during the hours-long battle before American soldiers managed to drive out the attackers and call in air support from attack helicopters. The official said dozens were killed and about 40 were wounded.
Another Georgia resident, Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, 27, of Jasper, also died in the attack.
The others killed were 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, of Hawaii; Sgt. Israel Garcia, 24, of Long Beach, Calif.; Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, 25, of Seattle; Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, 24, of Clinton, Tenn.; Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, 22, of Haw River, N.C.; Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20, of Florissant, Mo.; and Pfc. Sergio S. Abad, 21, of Morganfield, Ky.
Bill Ayers said funeral arrangements have not been completed. Jon was survived by his parents and an older brother, Joshua.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.