Army Spc. Kyle Wright, from southwest suburban Romeoville, typically served as infantry or used his Arabic fluency to explain a new world to his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.
But the 22-year-old took on a new assignment just before Christmas, said his father, Richard. The 2006 Romeoville High School graduate got behind the wheel of an armored vehicle and drove 10 other soldiers on missions to secure the main highways of southern Afghanistan in the Taliban heartland.
They were returning from a mission Wednesday when Kyle Wright drove over a 250-pound improvised explosive device that went off right under the driver's seat, his father said. Wright was dead by the time soldiers pulled him from the wreckage, Richard Wright said. The Army could not confirm the story or Wright's death.
Richard Wright said his son had "a sense of honor that is not even of this generation any more. He was just an unbelievable guy, wildly popular among the band of brothers that he served with."
Wright was deployed in July on a 12-month tour, his first. He was in love with his girlfriend, whom he met while stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., his father said.
Wright joined the Army after high school, where he was in the Marine Corps JROTC program, Assistant Principal Lindy Steeves said.
"He was ... really good at things that he was passionate about," said Steeves, who has a wall full of student pictures in her office, including one of Wright in fatigues.
Flags were at half-staff Thursday at buildings throughout Valley View Community Unit School District 365U, which includes Romeoville High School, and at Romeoville Village Hall. Wright's father delivers food to the district's 21 schools, and Wright's stepmother is a secretary at a district elementary school.