Sgt. 1st Class Dae Han Park, 36, of Watertown, died on Saturday of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Wardak province, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
The 1992 Watertown High School graduate was then known as Michael Schneider, but he changed his name to reflect his Korean roots.
He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. He enlisted in the the U. S. States Army in February 1998 as an Infantryman.
In 2000, he earned the Ranger Tab and participated in the Best Ranger Competition in 2002. In March 2003, he deployed as a Rifle Squad Leader and he joined the Special Forces in 2005. This was his fourth deployment.
"He was very disciplined, focused, and very happy and humble," Park's sister Katie Park said from the family's Watertown home.
Park leaves behind a wife and two daughters in their Washington state hometown, according to a news release from Gov. Dannel Malloy. His parents live in Thomaston.
“Sergeant First Class Park’s family, particularly his father and stepmother, his wife and children, as well as his friends, are in Cathy’s and my thoughts and prayers,” Malloy said in a statement. “This is a devastating time for those who knew and loved Sgt. 1st Class Park, and for the people with whom he served, as well. He is a hero who died serving his country and he will be honored and remembered as such. We are reminded of the toll war exacts on this country and military families, and how important it is to thank our soldiers for the work they are doing. We pray for their safe return.”
Park’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon (2nd award) Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (3rd award), Army Service Ribbon, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Parachutist’s Badge, and the Air Assault Badge.
He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
Malloy has ordered Connecticut and U.S. flags lowered to half staff.
Park is not the first Watertown High graduate who was killed while serving overseas. Pvt. First Class Gebrah Noon, 26, was shot and killed by a fellow soldier in Iraq six months ago.