LOCKEFORD - Kyle Coumas appeared to be in good spirits during his first deployment overseas.
Angela Dunne, an old high school friend from Stockton, last communicated with the 22-year-old Army specialist over Facebook. During the brief online exchange, Coumas boasted of his accomplishments in Afghanistan.
"It seemed like he was having the time of his life over there," said Dunne, 22, who graduated with Coumas from Saint Mary's High School in 2005. "He was really proud of what he was doing."
But Coumas' tour of duty was cut short. The soldier from Lockeford died Wednesday in Afghanistan from injuries inflicted when a bomb exploded near his vehicle, the military said.
News trickled slowly through the small town east of Lodi.
"It's upsetting. I just can't imagine," said Anna Sheehe, an employee at the post office from which Coumas' mother had just sent her son a care package last week. "You read about this a lot. But when you know somebody " I've got kids. I just couldn't deal with that."
Coumas was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division in Fort Lewis, Wash. His unit was patrolling in the Arghandab Valley near Kandahar City, military officials said.
Coumas enlisted about two years out of high school and was deployed to Afghanistan in July. During his short tenure, he earned several honors, including the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.