Airborne paratrooper killed in Afghanistan

Sergeant Samuel C. Hairston, a former college football standout at the University of Houston, was killed by enemy gunfire this week.

Sgt. 1st Class Samuel C. Hairston, 35, of Houston, Texas, was killed Tuesday while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, according to the Pentagon.

Hairston died from injuries suffered from small-arms fire in in Ghazni, Afghanistan, after his unit became involved in a combat situation with the enemy, Pentagon officials said. “We have suffered a great loss in the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment and express our deepest condolences,” said Lt. Col. Chris Hockenberry, Hairston’s battalion commander. “Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Hairston was an exceptional non-commissioned officer and a valued member of our team.”

Hairston was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Hairston enlisted in the Army in March of 2003, according to a release from the 82nd Airborne Division. Upon completion of one station unit training, he completed the basic airborne course at Fort Benning, Georgia. He arrived at Fort Bragg in 2003, and was later assigned to 1st BCT in August 2013.

Hairston’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Citation with two oak leaf clusters, and the Army Good Conduct Medal with two oak leaf clusters.

He is survived by his wife, Staff Sgt. Tawana Hairston, and his son Hayden.

Hairston was a graduate of the University of Houston where he played football as a defensive lineman from 1997 to 2000.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Sam Hairston and express our greatest condolences to his wife, Tawana, son, Hayden, extended family and wide circle of friends. Sam was not only a valuable member of the Houston family but an American hero,” said Mack Rhoades, University of Houston Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics. “He is an inspiration to all of us and will always be remembered as a great Cougar. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sam’s family and friends.”

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