CHICOPEE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The army says two special forces soldiers were killed yesterday in Afghanistan, and Western Mass News has learned that one of them was Master Sgt. Luis Deleon-Figueroa of Chicopee was one of them.
Both Deleon-Figueroa and Master Sgt Jose Gonzalez were killed during combat operations in the Faryab Province.
They were assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
Deleon-Figueroa, a Chicopee native. served more than thirteen years in the army.
He completed the special forces qualification course as a communication sergeant, and then as an operations and intelligence sergeant.
He was deployed six times during his career as an infantryman to Iraq in 2008 and to Afghanistan in 2010.
He was deployed as a Green Beret to South America in 2015 and 2018 and, most recently, twice to Afghanistan.
Deleon-Figueroa was highly decorated as well, including a Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Valor, and a Purple Heart.
Tonight, we spoke with his sister and grandma over the phone.
They tell Western Mass News that, at this time, they’re not ready to go on camera, but they were more than willing to talk about their loved one.
His sister, Terenz, says that yesterday, when she arrived home and saw the two military members, she immediately knew right away why they were there.
She says, at first, she felt denial and refused to look at them, because she didn’t want the news to be real, but with them was a pastor, and the heartbreaking news slowly became calming as they began laughing and remembering the memories they had with him.
She tells us Luis attended Chicopee High School and was very athletic and involved in sports, but he developed a passion for the army.
His grandma Teresa tells us over the phone, while laughing and crying, that he grew up very hardheaded and that she never expected him to make it, but the army changed his life.
She says she’s so glad he went to the army and turned his life around.
He served for thirteen years, because, she says, he just wanted to serve his country.
She says that Luis was the only man who truly loved and took care of her.
Luis was also a father. He leaves behind two daughters and a step-daughter.
The family tells us that, while the family is in shock, he died doing what he loved, and that they couldn’t be prouder of him.
Most of all, she says, they’re remembering him simply as 'our hero.’
His body has not yet been returned to the United States, but his family tells us they will let us know.