Note: This story was last updated April 10.
A chaplain and another military representative knocked on her door at about 10:35 p.m. Saturday.
Joyce Ward of Oak Ridge knew why there were there.
She learned that her son, Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ward, 24, had died in southern Afghanistan on Saturday morning helping a diplomat and two other soldiers deliver books to children in Zabul province when their vehicle was hit by an explosion.
“He is a hero,” Joyce Ward said. “He gave his life. He put himself in the line of fire to protect others.”
Nancy Ward, Christopher’s grandmother in Arcadia, Fla., said Christopher Ward was part of the convoy that included diplomat Anne Smedinghoff, 25, of Chicago. She was the first American diplomat to be killed on the job since Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others were killed last Sept. 11 in an attack on a United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
The five Americans who died Saturday—the three soldiers, the diplomat, and a U.S. Department of Defense civilian—were delivering textbooks to children at a new school in Afghanistan. They were traveling in a convoy of vehicles when a suicide car bomb exploded, the Chicago Tribune reported. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
The Army Times identified the other soldiers as Spc. Wilbel A. Robles-Santa, 25, of Juncos, Puerto Rico, and Spc. Deflin M. Santos Jr., 24, of San Jose, Calif. They were deployed with the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.
Christopher Ward grew up in Arcadia, Fla. He was in Junior ROTC and stayed in Arcadia, which is east of Sarasota and north of Fort Myers, to finish high school when Joyce moved to Oak Ridge about 10 years ago.
He came to Oak Ridge in July 2004 and attended Oak Ridge High School before getting a GED later, Joyce Ward said.
He enlisted in the Army in 2006 at 17 and had been in Iraq twice. His mother said this was his first tour in Afghanistan.
Joyce Ward was at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., on Monday for a “dignified transfer” procedure. Her son’s body was the first off the plane.
“I wouldn’t want no one else to have to experience it,” she said.
Ward is also survived by his father, Michael Howard Ward; two younger brothers, Matthew, 22, and Travis, 20; and his paternal grandfather.
“He never said he worked for the Army,” Joyce Ward said of her son. “He said he worked for the people.”
Another U.S. service member was killed in a separate attack Saturday. It was reported to be the deadliest day in the country for the United States in eight months.
More information will be added as it becomes available.