A soldier from Edgewood serving in Afghanistan died Saturday after being wounded in action, according to the military.
Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, a 1998 Joppatowne High School graduate, was a member of the Army's Special Forces. The 37-year-old Edgewood resident died "of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations," according to a statement on the Department of Defense website.
Staff Sgt. De Alencar was a member of the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) assigned to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, according to the Defense Department.
He had been working with Afghan troops to fight insurgents affiliated with the Islamic State, or ISIS, according to a message posted on the Twitter feed of the Resolute Support Mission.
The NATO-led Resolute Support is designed to support Afghan security forces, according to the command's website.
"On behalf of all U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, I offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of our fallen comrade," Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and Resolute Support, said in a written statement issued Sunday by the U.S. forces command, headquartered in the capital Kabul.
"We will always remember our fallen comrades and commit ourselves to deliver on their sacrifice," Nicholson continued.
Staff Sgt. De Alencar and the Afghan troops were operating in the Nangarhar province in the eastern part of the country.
His body was scheduled to return to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware at 6:45 p.m. Monday.
The Army did not release the staff sergeant's name until about 4 p.m. Monday. His next of kin had to be notified first, according to the statement from his command.
The news, however, filtered out before then via Facebook. De Alencar's name and photograph were posted on the Joppatowne High School Alumni Facebook page Sunday. Multiple friends wrote tributes and left their condolences for his family.
Kilo Mack, principal at Edgewood High School, was a teacher at Joppatowne High when De Alencar was a student.
Mack was overcome with emotion during a phone interview Monday after seeing a photo of De Alencar in his Army uniform, which had been posted online.
"He was a good kid," Mack said.
He later wrote a short tribute to De Alencar in an email.
"I remember Mark as a student at Joppatowne High School and a member of the football team," Mack stated. "I remember when he joined the Army and him being very happy and excited. I recall him seeing this as an opportunity to do something better for himself and with his life."
Mack also noted he is "proud of his service and his sacrifice for our great nation!"
Jansen Robinson, a resident of Edgewood and a member of the Harford County Board of Education, is a relative of De Alencar through marriage — his niece, Natasha, is De Alencar's wife.
Natasha De Alencar is also Joppatowne High School graduate. He said the couple, which he said were "soulmates" had five children and had been together for about 15 years.
"They shared a life together," Robinson said. "She was his rock, he was her rock, so she's taking it pretty hard."