WASHINGTON -- One Texan was among 12 soldiers killed in the crash of a military helicopter in Iraq.
The Defense Department says the victims included 31-year-old Captain Sean E. Lyerly of Pflugerville. Lyerly was assigned to the Texas Army National Guard's 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, 36th Infantry Division in Austin.
National Guard officials say Lyerly was the pilot of the Army Black Hawk helicopter that went down Saturday northeast of Baghdad.
The US military has refused to confirm a report by a Pentagon official that debris at the crash site indicated the helicopter was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.
Csilla Lyerly Wednesday told The Associated Press that her husband was a "wonderful man" who was "loving, passionate and full of integrity."
The following is the statement released by the Texas National Guard in regards to Capt. Lyerly's death:
CAMP MABRY, Austin, Texas (Jan. 23, 2007) – Captain Sean Edward Lyerly, 31, of Pflugerville, was killed in action January 20, 2007 while serving on Active Duty in Iraq. He was a crew member on a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter involved in a crash. Circumstances concerning the downed aircraft are pending investigation.
Captain Lyerly entered military service as a Private in the Texas Army National Guard on October 26, 1996. He graduated from Stratford High School in Houston, TX, in the summer of 1994 and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture from Texas A&M University in May of 2000. He completed Advanced Individual Training as a Cannon Crewmember at Fort Sill, Okla. on August 22, 1997, and was advanced in grade to Private E-2 before enrolling as a Cadet in the Reserve Officers Training Course (ROTC) at Texas A&M University.
Captain Lyerly successfully completed the U.S. Army Aviation Officer Basic Course on March 24, 2005 and the UH-60 Aviator Qualification Course on June 14, 2005 at Fort Rucker, Ala. He was promoted to Captain on December 30, 2005, and served as Commander, HHC 2nd Battalion 149th Aviation, Austin, TX
Captain Lyerly was ordered to active duty on February 1, 2006, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and deployed with his unit, the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, based in Austin, Texas.
The unit spent six months at Fort Hood, Texas, conducting training in preparation for its overseas mission. The unit arrived in the OIF area of operations in August 2006. Its assigned mission was to provide aviation support and security throughout the combat zone.
Captain Lyerly flew on several missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Captain Lyerly’s awards and decorations include the Army Aviator Badge, Army Service Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, Reserve Components Achievement Medal with M Device, Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Commendation Medal, and is being recommended for the posthumous award of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal with V Device for his selfless service and acts of heroism and valor.
Captain Lyerly is survived by his wife Csilla and their son Zachery, 3, of Pflugerville; father George Lyerly of Bryan; and mother Deborah Lyerly of Houston, Texas.