May 30, 2014 Updated: May 30, 2014 at 10:10 pm
A Fort Carson soldier who earned several medals in his one year of service died Wednesday in Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense said Friday.
Pfc. Jacob H. Wykstra, 21, of Thornton died in Kandahar province from injuries suffered during an "aircraft incident," officials said in a statement. No further details were provided, but the statement said the incident is under investigation.
On the day of incident, The Associated Press reported that a NATO soldier died in a helicopter crash after it accidentally struck the district's communication antenna. The AP cited Afghan police officer Atta Mohammad, who said the crash occurred in the Maruf district in Kandahar. Along with the soldier who was killed, 15 coalition service members were injured. But Army officials did not confirm whether the helicopter crash was the same incident that killed Wykstra.
Wykstra was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson.
He joined the military in May 2013, arrived at Fort Carson in September and deployed to Afghanistan in January.
In his year of service, the infantryman had garnered a National Defense Service Medal, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and an Army Service Ribbon.
"It is always hard to lose a part of our military family. Our thoughts and prayers are with PFC Wykstra's family and friends during this very difficult time," Fort Carson officials said in the statement.
On social media, Wykstra's friends remembered him for his positive attitude and sense of humor and asked for prayers for the young wife he left behind.
"You made me laugh more times than I can count," one person wrote on Facebook. "Your goofy & free spirited personality never failed to lighten the day of anybody," wrote another.
Wykstra's family issued a statement to the Denver Post late Friday.
"Jake was a faithful and loving husband, son, brother and friend. Words cannot express our sorrow at this time," his family said. "Jake always lit up a room with his smile and goofy sense of humor."