MOKENA, Ill. (WLS) --Aaron Toppen, 19, of Mokena, was one of the five American troops killed in friendly fire in southern Afghanistan, his family says. Toppen's uncle said the family is devastated and they learned of his death early Tuesday morning.
This incident is the deadliest involving coalition forces during nearly 13 years of fighting, and comes at a time when casualties from enemy fire is at an all-time low.
Representatives from the military returned to the soldier's Mokena home on Tuesday afternoon. He is remembered by family and neighbors as a patriotic soldier who died doing what he loved.
"He told me he was going on a mission," said his mother, Pam Toppen."He said, 'Don't worry, I'm with the best men. I love you.'"
Toppen was part of a special operations unit on a security mission when the group was hit by bombs launched from an American B-1 Lancer. The aircraft was called in when Toppen's unit ran up against Taliban forces.
"We do have reason to suspect that friendly fire was the cause here," said Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.
Toppen graduated from Lincoln-Way East High School last year and enlisted in the military two months later. His family says he spoke about serving his country in grade school.
"He is going to be remembered as one great, young American, and a hardworking young boy," said Larry Bettenhausen, neighbor.
In a statement released by the school district, his high school counselor said, "Aaron was a friendly young man who got along well with his peers. He talked often about planning on going into the military and serving his country."
Toppen's death comes as a double-blow to the family. His father died just four months ago. On Tuesday, Toppen's sisters honored their late brother on Facebook, posting, "Mom's doorbell rang at midnight" and "the family was notified of his death."