PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (AP) _ A member of the Texas National Guard was piloting the Army Black Hawk helicopter that went down in Iraq over the weekend, killing all 12 soldiers onboard, officials said Wednesday.
Capt. Sean E. Lyerly, 31, had been assigned to the Texas Army National Guard's 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, 36th Infantry Division in Austin.
Texas Army National Guard officials said Lyerly was piloting the helicopter when it went down Saturday northeast of Baghdad. The U.S. military in Baghdad has refused to confirm a report by a Pentagon official that debris indicated the helicopter was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.
Nine of the other 11 casualties were assigned to state National Guard units, but none of the others were from Texas.
Lylerly, a 1994 graduate of Stratford High School in Houston, joined the National Guard in 1996 after earning a bachelor of science degree in horticulture from Texas A&M University in May 2000. He went on active duty last February and was sent overseas in August to provide aviation support and security.
During his tenure he received various awards including a National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star. He was being recommended for a posthumous Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal for his selfless service and acts of heroism and valor, the Texas National Guard said.
His wife, Csilla Lyerly, said he worked as a pilot for the National Guard during hurricanes Katrina and Rita, spending several months flying in supplies and helping with rescue missions.
"My husband was a wonderful man," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "He was loving, passionate and full of integrity."
He is survived by his wife and their 3-year-old son, Zackary; and parents George Lyerly of Bryan and Deborah Russo-Blakeman of Houston.