GREENVILLE - An inside attack involving members of the Afghan police killed a Pitt County soldier Sunday, in an incident a top U.S. general called a "very serious threat" to the war effort.
Specialist Joshua Nelson, 22, died in Zabul Province, Afghanistan while serving on his first deployment. Nelson graduated from North Pitt High School in 2008, and was killed with four other American service members Sunday.
In a series of critical remarks, the U.S. military's top officer Gen. Martin Dempsey said killings by rogue Afghan soldiers must be addressed.
"You can't whitewash it," Dempsey told the American Forces Press Service. "We can't convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change."
Hours after Sunday's incident, the U.S. Military suspended joint operations with Afghan troops. Joint patrols will only operate at a battalion level, and missions will now require permission from regional commanders.
According to reports filed from Kabul, Afghan police killed Nelson and three other American soldiers coming to their aid, after a checkpoint attack Sunday. The incident was the third assault by government forces or insurgents disguised in military uniforms in as many days.
The Nelson family traveled to Dover Air Force Base Wednesday to receive their son's remains. The Nelson's pastor, Bishop Henry Brown spoke on their behalf Wednesday, calling the news of the inside attack deeply disturbing.
"You expect outer attacks, but an attack from the interior, it's just shocking," said Brown, a retired Marine. "Young people here broke down. They really started crying. Because [Nelson's death] made the situation real to them."
A student remembered for his beats on the marching band drum line and his commitment to serving America was killed Saturday night, weeks before he was scheduled to return home.
Specialist Joshua Nelson, 22, died in Zabul Province, Afghanistan while serving on his first deployment. Nelson graduated from North Pitt High School in 2008, where faculty said the news has been a nightmare.
"He always had a smile on his face, so it was tough hearing what happened," Coach Dave Boal said in an interview Tuesday. "He was one of those kids who you know is going to do well in life. And you hate to see something bad happen to good people."
Neslon married Quamisha Nelson, 23, last year. The Pitt County native was part of the North Pitt High School Band, remembered for his skills on the drum line and gregarious personality.
"He was definitely not a shy guy," Boal said. "If you were walking down the hallway, made eye contact with him, he would give you a smile. He'd go out of his way to say, 'hey coach, how you doing today?' He was a great kid."
The Pentagon could not immediately disclose the circumstances surrounding Nelson's death. A spokesperson said both parents need to be notified of the incident, and an official statement will be released 24 hours after each parent is contacted.
Nelson was based at Fort Gordon military base in Augusta, G.A.
Friends and teachers who remember Nelson said they are heartbroken, but the young soldier was doing what he loved. Although there is tragedy in Bethel, people said they are comforted Nelson was happy, serving his country.
"He made the ultimate sacrifice," Boal said. "If you're doing something you do and there's always dangers, you just hate that something like this happened."