LEWISTON -- An Army sergeant with strong ties to northern Idaho was one of the 13 American soldiers killed Tuesday during a suicide bomb attack at a mess tent in Mosul, Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Darren VanKomen, 33, was serving with the Stryker Brigade based at Fort Lewis, Wash., when he was killed in the blast.
Although the Army lists VanKomen's hometown as Bluefield, W.Va., he spent his childhood in the Lewiston area and graduated from Culdesac High School in 1991.
The youngest of 10 children, VanKomen joined the Army after graduating from high school.
His family described him Thursday as a loving family man who was dedicated to his country and the military.
"He was not afraid to serve his country, " said his mother, Betty Clemens, of Orofino. "He said 'Mom, don't worry about me. This is something I'm going to do and something I have trained for, and if I die that is God's will.' "
A military service at Fort Lewis is planned for Wednesday .
VanKomen worked in supply and had recently been promoted and re-enlisted for another six years of duty.
He was married to Stephaine VanKomen of Olympia, Wash., and had a 12-year-old stepdaughter, Chelsea.
"That little girl was his world, " said his sister, Tina McDaniel, 40, of Culdesac.
VanKomen met his wife at Fort Brag in North Carolina, where she was visiting. Stephaine told her sister-in-law she would marry him just moments after they met.
"She thought I was crazy. I didn't even know his first name, " Stephaine said.
He called her for a date the same day and they went out later that night. They were married six months later.
His brother, Bill VanKomen, 45, of Post Falls, said his brother was a perfectionist who will be missed not only by his family and friends but by the Army.
"Honest to God, he was one hell of a worker, " he said. "I know they are going to miss him over there. The whole family is the same way. You take pride in what you do and you do it right."