A 32-year-old Army Ranger from Summerville who was killed in Afghanistan after coming under small arms enemy fire Thursday is being remembered as a passionate and skilled leader.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Andrew Celiz was wounded while conducting operations in support of a medical evacuation landing zone in Afghanistan's eastern Paktia province, according to the Department of Defense. He was treated and evacuated to the nearest medical facility, where he died.
The incident is under investigation.
Army officials said Celiz was on his fifth deployment with the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment based at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. He previously deployed from 2008 to 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and from 2011 to 2012 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
At the time of his death, he was serving as a battalion mortar platoon sergeant and was supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
Celiz was the second U.S. casualty in Afghanistan this month.
Cpl. Joseph Maciel, of South Gate, Calif., died on July 7 after an apparent insider attack in Tarin Kowt District, Uruzgan Province, according to military officials. The circumstances behind Maciel's death are also being investigated.
Celiz enlisted in the Army in 2007. He had assignments in Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Stewart, Ga., before being selected to serve with the 75th Ranger Regiment as a combat engineer in 2013.
He was a husband and a father who is being remembered as a leader who approached his work with an "incredibly positive attitude," Lt. Col. Sean McGee, Commander, 1st Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment, said in a news release.
"Sgt. 1st Class Celiz led from the front and always put himself at the decisive point on the battlefield," McGee said.
Col. Brandon Tegtmeier, commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, called Celiz a "national treasure" who led with passion and competence.
Celiz was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.
Citadel officials expressed their condolences via a tweet Friday afternoon:
"With heavy hearts, The Citadel family mourns the loss of (Sgt.) 1st Class Christopher Celiz. We will never forget the sacrifice this fallen warrior made in service to our nation, and we offer our condolences to his family, friends and teammates."
With heavy hearts, The Citadel family mourns the loss of Sergeant 1st. Class Christopher Celiz. We will never forget the sacrifice this fallen warrior made in service to our nation, and we offer our condolences to his family, friends and teammates. pic.twitter.com/CzEsG7AQug— The Citadel (@Citadel1842) July 13, 2018
No reliable count of South Carolinians killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 was available on Friday, but a search of The Post and Courier archives showed at least a few casualties with area connections in recent years.
Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Taylor, 25, a Summerville native, was killed by hostile, small arms fire while on a patrol in Baghdad on Sept. 21, 2008.
Army Pvt. Cheziray Lashawn Pressley, 21, of North Charleston was killed along with three other troops by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on May 16, 2011.
Green Beret and Hanahan native Staff Sgt. Girald "Jerry" Gass, Jr., 33, died of injuries not related to combat on Aug. 3, 2014, while in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
In 2015, 42-year-old Matthew Edward Michael Fineran — a longtime Summerville resident working as part of a security force for a government contractor — was killed along with two other Americans during an attack at Kabul airport.