A Lockeford soldier died Wednesday in Afghanistan when his vehicle was attacked by an improvised explosive device.
U.S. Army Spc. Kyle A. Coumas, 22, died in Kandahar province of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle, the U.S. Army and Department of Defense announced Thursday morning.
"I just talked to him two days ago on Facebook," said Danny Dunne, an English teacher at St. Mary's High School in Stockton, where Coumas graduated in 2005. "Two days later, he's gone. It's difficult to take."
Funeral services are pending.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledged Coumas' death and announced that flags at the State Capitol in Sacramento will be flown at half-staff.
"Spc. Kyle Coumas was a courageous soldier who gave his life while fighting to protect our country," Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement. "Californians will never forget Kyle's unwavering commitment to our nation, and we are forever indebted to his service. Maria and I send our thoughts and prayers to all of Kyle's loved ones."
The son of Michael and Lori Coumas, of Lockeford, Kyle Coumas began his tour of active duty in February 2007 and was assigned that June to Fort Lewis, Wash. He went to Afghanistan three months ago. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
"I remember him as very bright, a bit shy and reserved (as a sophomore)," Dunne said. "I had him again as a senior, and he opened up much more. I noticed he was much more mature than your average senior."
Dunne arrived at school Thursday morning and found an e-mail informing him of Coumas' death. Coumas was a student of Dunne's and was active in the school's Chess Club, which Dunne advised.
"At St. Mary's, we pray every day," Dunne said Thursday. "We did a special prayer for Kyle."
Even in his sophomore year, Dunne recalls, Coumas wanted to serve in the armed forces.
"His journal writing and drawings would be about the military," Dunne added.
Coumas earned awards and decorations, including the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and Army Service Ribbon, according to a news release from Fort Lewis.
After Coumas graduated from St. Mary's, he and Dunne became friends. With four daughters, Dunne considered Coumas a surrogate son. They corresponded regularly by e-mail and through the Facebook social networking site.
"He was doing pretty well," Dunne said. "He seemed to be proud of what he was doing. He was happy."
Kyle Coumas at a glanceThe following is information Kyle Coumas posted on his MySpace page:
— Interests: "Besides the Army life? Video games, women, sci-fi/fantasy books, action flicks."
— Books: "Harry Potter," "Wheel of Time," "Warhammer 40,000" books, "Star Wars" novels.
— Heroes: "Han Solo, hands down. Nobody beats his quick wit, quick draw, style of dress and the rest of his scoundrel traits."
Before attending high school, Coumas attended Mokelumne River School in Acampo before transferring to Century Christian School in Lodi for seventh grade.
Coumas was a close friend of Matthew Aguire of Galt. They attended Mokelumne River School and carpooled to St. Mary's, according to Liz Aguire, Matthew's mother.
"He was very serious about what he was doing — a nice kid who would give the shirt off his back," Liz Aguire said. "I still think of him as a kid."
Coumas performed in the band at St. Mary's and enjoyed competing in an annual band tournament at Disneyland, she said.
Liz Aguire and her son would visit Coumas at Fort Lewis whenever they visited Aguire's mother nearby. They would pick Coumas up at the base and take him to Aguire's mother's home.