By BARBARA RODRIGUEZ, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The mother of one of three Ohio soldiers killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan said on Friday he was a natural leader who belonged to a family of men who chose to serve their country by enlisting in the military.
Pamela Mitchell, of Dublin, said her son Capt. Nicholas Rozanski loved being a soldier for the National Guard. She said he had a passion for military service that was shared by one of his younger brothers, who was part of a Columbus-based Marine unit that lost almost two dozen of its members in 2005.
Rozanski was among three members of an Ohio-based National Guard unit killed in a Wednesday attack in Maimanah, the capital of Faryab province, the Department of Defense said. Also killed were Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Hannon, of Grove City, and Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Rieck, of Columbus. Four others were wounded.
Mitchell said Rozanski's younger brother Alex is a surviving member of the Lima Company, a reserve unit that lost 22 Marines and a Navy Corpsman in Iraq in 2005, including nine in one bombing. Fifteen of the 23 were from Ohio.
Mitchell said both her sons felt a strong connection to serving.
"They felt they had an obligation to their country," she said.
Nicholas, the oldest of her three sons, never expressed an interest in serving until the day he announced it to his family.
"We were totally surprised when he walked in one day and said, 'I joined the National Guard,'" she said. "I think you could have pushed us with a feather."
He enlisted in 2003 and deployed to Kosovo in 2004 and to Iraq in 2008.
"I think that Nick found his niche," she said. "He was an excellent officer, and he cared very deeply for his men. He was a natural leader."
Mitchell recalled a time in 2005 when Nick was leaving Kosovo to return to the United States. That day, Alex was flying into Iraq with the Lima Company.
"I honestly believe they passed each other somewhere over the ocean," she said. "It was such a coincidence."
Wednesday's attack, by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle, killed at least 13 people at a park in a relatively peaceful area of northern Afghanistan. It was part of an increase in violence at the start of the spring fighting season.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility. The bomber's target was unclear.
The men killed were from the Guard's 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, according to the Ohio Adjutant General's Department. Wounded were 1st Lt. Christopher Rosebrock, of Hicksville; Spc. Austin Weigle, of Bryan; Cpl. Everett Haworth, of Olmsted Township in Cuyahoga County; and Pvt. 1st Class Jacob Williams, of Somerville.
Everett R. Haworth, the father of Everett Haworth, said his son has a broken leg and shrapnel wounds to his shoulder from the explosion. He said the injuries are not life-threatening and he's expected to recover. He said his son will be moved to the U.S. for surgery.
"He's in good spirits," Everett R. Haworth said. "The prognosis is good. But the healing process will be long."
His son has a wife and a 6-month-old daughter, he said.
Mitchell said Nicholas Rozanski was a father of two girls and worked for the Defense Logistics Agency at Defense Supply Center Columbus. She said her third son, Keith, is a lawyer in Los Angeles.
Hannon's family said he felt it was a privilege to serve his country and was proud to be a soldier, a job he did for nearly 20 years while also working as a lawyer.
Hannon, chief legal counsel for the Ohio Department of Veterans Affairs, joined the state agency last year after working for a Columbus law firm. Survivors include his wife and their 9-month-old son.
Hannon was a graduate of Capital University law school in Columbus and had been a lawyer for six years.
Rieck, the father of a 15-year-old son, had served in the Army and was in Iraq for longer than a year before heading to Afghanistan. He worked full time in the Guard's Family Readiness office.
Friend Nicole Kraft, an Ohio State University journalism professor, told The Columbus Dispatch that Rieck was "one of those people who really believed in what he was doing."
"He was all about being an American and doing his part," she said. "He really felt it was a role for which he was — perhaps it's too strong a word — destined."