By TINA IRGANG
WASHINGTON (Nov. 27, 2009) - Staff Sgt. Matthew Pucino, 34, of Cockeysville, a member of the Maryland Army National Guard, was killed in Afghanistan Monday when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle.
At the time, Pucino was travelling near the town of Pashay Kala. "He was in an all-terrain vehicle when his unit was attacked by an improvised explosive device," said Lt. Col. Charles Kohler of the Maryland National Guard.
Pucino had earned a number of military commendations, including a Bronze Star for meritorious service during a previous tour of duty in Iraq. He will be awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Afghanistan, Kohler said.
Anthony Pucino of Norton, Mass., said his cousin Matthew joined the military in 2002, shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "He did it to make sure that we were all safe, and he volunteered to go back multiple times," said Anthony Pucino. "He died doing what he loved."
"The family's just trying to get through this tough time and we hope it will come to an end," Pucino said.
Matthew Pucino was a native of Hudson, Mass., about 30 miles from Boston. He graduated from Bishop Stang High School in North Darthmoor in 1993 and held a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Northwestern University.
Pucino served as an intelligence officer, and his military education included a survival, evasion, resistance and escape course and a Special Forces qualification course, which earned him the status of Green Beret.
In Afghanistan, Pucino was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group of the Maryland Army National Guard (Airborne) in Glen Arm. He is the 11th Maryland Guardsman to lose his life in the two ongoing conflicts.
Members of Patriot Guard Riders, a group which attends veteran funerals at the request of their families, offered condolences to the Pucino family on an online forum Wednesday morning.
"America has lost another hero and defender of the cause," said Howard Shrut from Newton, Mass. "May he rest in peace."
"I am forever grateful for your service to our country. Your service and sacrifices will not be forgotten," said Eric Kuhn of Bartlett, Ill.
Pucino is survived by his wife, Crystal Pucino, of Clarksville, Tenn., his parents, Albert and Kathryn Pucino, of Orlando, Fla., and his sister, Lisa Pucino Haglof of Sagamore, Mass.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.