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19-year-old Wahpeton native killed in Afghanistan

Keenan Cooper was to turn 20 next week, return from Afghanistan within a month and get married this fall.

The Wahpeton, N.D., native was killed by a roadside bomb Monday while serving his first tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The family's pastor said Tuesday Cooper wanted to enlist in the Army even as a kid.

"When Keenan thinks things through and makes a decision, that's it," said The Rev. Mike Adams, the family spokesman who met Cooper as an 8-year-old at Faith Evangelical Free Church in Wahpeton.

Adams described Spc. Cooper as a patriotic, soft-spoken guy with a great sense of humor.

"He was a great kid. He will be missed," Adams said.

Cooper's parents, David and Heather Cooper of Wahpeton, were notified Monday night of their son's death. Keenan was the oldest of five children.

The family and Cooper's fiancée, April Travis, will travel today to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where Cooper's body will arrive back in the United States.

Adams said the family's faith is helping them cope.

"They truly believe the Lord has a purpose for everything, including the death of their son," Adams said.

At least three other soldiers were killed Monday in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Department of Defense website.

Insurgent attacks have been increasing in much of Afghanistan as NATO ramps up a crucial push to bring security to Taliban-dominated areas in the south after nearly nine years of war.

Cooper is a 2008 graduate of Wahpeton High School. The last North Dakota soldier killed in the wars in the Middle East was Army Staff Sgt. David Kuehl, 27, of Wahpeton. He was killed during combat operations in Iraq on May 22, 2007.

On Tuesday, North Dakota Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, Rep. Earl Pomeroy and Gov. John Hoeven released statements with condolences to the Cooper family.

Said Dorgan: "On Sunday, our nation celebrated our freedom. Specialist Cooper's death on Monday reminded us that freedom comes at a very high price."

Heidi Shaffer is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo/Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

Heidi Shaffer

Heidi Shaffer is the Audience Engagement Manager for Forum Communications. Readers can reach Shaffer at (701) 241-5582 or by emailing Twitter: @heidishaffer | Instagram: @hreisenauer  

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