Dan Bewley and NewsOn6.com
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Three Oklahoma soldiers were killed on Friday, September 9. The men were killed in Paktia, Afghanistan when enemy forces attacked their unit with small arms fire.
According to Oklahoma Army National Guard, two other soldiers were wounded during the attack. They are expected to recover from their injuries.
Dead are Sergeant Bret D. Isenhower, 26, of Seminole; Specialist Christopher D. Horton, 26, of Collinsville, and Private First Class Tony J. Potter Jr., 20, of Okmulgee.
The men were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team out of the Oklahoma National Guard in Tulsa.
Pfc. Potter was an Okmulgee High School graduate. He joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard in April 2010 to become an infantryman. He was promoted to private first class in May.
His death brings an air of sadness to the Okmulgee High School football field - a former Bulldog is one of the latest to lose his life serving his country.
Pfc. Tony Potter was the youngest member of the Oklahoma Army National Guard to die in Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11.
"I just know that he's going to be in a better place," said Earnest Woodruff.
Earnest Woodruff is a senior at Okmulgee High School. He was a sophomore on the wrestling squad when Pfc. Potter was a senior.
He says the age gap didn't stop Potter from looking after the younger guys.
"He tried to help everybody at practice. He always wanted us to run harder so we would do better when we went out to the games. He was always going 100 percent," Woodruff said.
Sgt. Isenhower graduated from Seminole High School in 2003 and joined the Oklahoma National Guard three years later. He had earned the rank of sergeant last March and served as a fire team leader in an infantry platoon.
Prior to deploying to Afghanistan, he was assigned to Troop C, 180th Cavalry Squadron in Ada. This was Sgt. Isenhower's second deployment. He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007-08.
Spc. Horton graduated from the Missouri Military Academy before enlisting in the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 2008. He attended basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, to become an infantryman and was sniper qualified. This was his first deployment.
"This is an extremely sad day for the 45th Infantry Brigade, the Oklahoma National Guard and the entire state," said Major General Myles Deering, adjutant general for Oklahoma.
"These young men exemplified the courage and commitment of the finest citizen soldiers. And, the fact that they all volunteered to join the military and serve during this time of war says a lot about their character and devotion to our country."
Ten soldiers from the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have died in Afghanistan since July 29. In all, 15 Oklahoma Army National Guard Soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.
"You just don't think about stuff like that," said Coach Shane Page.
Page was Pfc. Potter's offensive line coach in Okmulgee. He says the young lineman and middle linebacker could do anything he set his mind to, and his death is a sad reminder of how the world has changed since that fateful day 10 years ago.
"Just every day we have to be thankful for the fact that we do have the soldiers out there fighting to protect us and everything," he said.
"I mean, it's an honor to know that he was a part of that but it's a very, very sad day to hear about the loss."
Pfc Potter and his wife are expecting their first child.
According to Oklahoma Army National Guard, Friday's death toll marks the second time Oklahoma has lost three citizen soldiers in a single day. In September 2008, three Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen were killed when an Army CH-47 helicopter crashed in Iraq.