BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota National Guard soldier killed this week in Afghanistan is being remembered as not only a soldier but also a mentor.
Sgt. 1st Class Darren Linde, 41, of Devils Lake, earned the nicknames "Grandpa" and "Papa Bear" while serving as a full-time instructor with the Guard's 164th Regional Training Institute at the Camp Grafton Training Center, fellow instructor 1st Sgt. Kurt Schwind told the Grand Forks Herald.
"Those are terms of endearment that he did not take lightly," Schwind said. "Not everyone gets a nickname."
Linde also served in Iraq from August 2007 to April 2008. Many saw him as a mentor in a platoon in which the average age was about 20.
"A lot of the younger soldiers looked up to him," said Sgt. Heather Barta, of Bismarck, who had Linde as her squad leader in Iraq.
Linde and Spc. Tyler Orgaard, 20, of Bismarck, died Monday in a roadside bomb attack in southern Afghanistan while serving with the 818th Engineer Company. Orgaard's parents, Jesse and Josephine Orgaard, planned to make public statements on Thursday.
Spc. Ian Placek, 23, of Bismarck, was wounded and is in stable condition at a hospital in Germany. He suffered burns to his chest, lungs and legs, The Bismarck Tribune reported.
The bodies of Linde and Orgaard were flown into Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Wednesday. It could be a week before the bodies are returned to North Dakota, according to Capt. Dan Murphy, a Guard spokesman. Funeral arrangements were pending.
The deaths of Linde and Orgaard were the first North Dakota National Guard casualties in the war on terror since November 2006. Fourteen North Dakota guardsmen have now died while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The 818th Engineer Company is headquartered in Williston with a detachment in Hazen. About 100 members of the unit have been in Afghanistan since June.