Nellis airman killed in Afghanistan

Senior Airman Michael J. Buras was no stranger to roadside bomb blasts.

He was wounded by one as a gunner on a mine-resistant ambush vehicle on his first deployment to Afghanistan with the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base.

On Tuesday, the 23-year-old journeyman bomb technician from Fitzgerald, Ga., was killed while responding to reports of a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan, his commander at Nellis said.

Two other airmen from the base’s explosive ordnance disposal team were injured in the blast and received medical treatment at Kandahar Airfield.

At least one of them was later flown to Germany for additional care.

“While responding to an IED (improvised explosive device) event, Senior Airman Michael Buras died when an undetected IED detonated,” his commander, Lt. Col. Mark McCloud, said during a press briefing Wednesday at the main entrance to the Nellis base.

“Airman Buras and his teammates are decorated war veterans. They are patriots, and they exemplify what it means to serve as part of our highly trained, tight-knit, elite team,” McCloud said. “Their families and friends will be in our thoughts and prayers as we go through this difficult time.”

Nellis officials said Buras was on his third combat deployment overseas. He had served in Iraq once and Afghanistan twice.

Buras was awarded a Purple Heart medal for injuries he suffered during a roadside bomb blast while he was a gunner on his first Afghanistan tour.

McCloud said that because of security and privacy issues, the names of the two airmen wounded in Tuesday’s attack wouldn’t be immediately released.

However, an Augusta, Ga., woman, Shirley Harris, contacted the Las Vegas Review-Journal and said her son, Tech. Sgt. Cory Kemp, 28, from Nellis Air Force Base had suffered injuries from the explosion Tuesday in Kandahar and had been transported to an air base near Landstuhl, Germany, for medical treatment.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., released a statement late Wednesday saying he was saddened to hear about the death of Buras.

“Michael Buras represented his fellow airmen from Nellis with dignity by serving our country with honor. My thoughts go out to Airman Buras’ family, friends and fellow airmen during this difficult time,” Reid said.

Buras was the fourth Nellis airman this year to die from combat operations in Afghanistan and the 71st U.S. military member with ties to Nevada who have died in the nation’s wars overseas since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Capt. David A. Wisniewski, 31, a Nellis helicopter pilot, died from injuries July 2, more than three weeks after his Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in a hail of rocket-propelled grenade fire while he was trying to rescue soldiers in Afghanistan.

Two other Nellis airmen were killed in the crash: 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz, 25, of Grass Lake, Mich., and Staff Sgt. David C. Smith, 26, of Eight Mile, Ala.

Also killed were Tech Sgt. Michael P. Flores, 31, of San Antonio and Senior Airman Benjamin D. White, 24, of Erwin, Tenn. Both were assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

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