(Taken from www.thesunchronicle.com) NORTH ATTLEBORO - The community is mourning the death of a young man who was fulfilling his dream of being a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Marines when he was killed Monday in Afghanistan.
Marine Capt. Kyle Van De Giesen, 29, a 1998 North Attleboro High School graduate, was killed in one of two separate helicopter crashes in that embattled country, his family confirmed.
Van De Giesen's death came just a week before he was set to end his tour, in time for the birth of his second child.
"It is with sadness today that we learned that our son, brother and husband Marine Capt. Kyle R. Van De Giesen was killed today in the line of duty in Afghanistan," his family said in a statement Monday. "He fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a Marine helicopter pilot, protecting his family and serving his country."
The two helicopter crashes Monday involved a total of three choppers, two of which collided in midair in the south of the country, and a third that went down in the wake of a firefight in Afghanistan's west, according to the NATO force and American officials.
It was not immediately clear in which crash Van De Giesen was killed.
Van De Giesen was a star quarterback for the North Attleboro High School football team and a 2002 graduate of St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.
He was stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.
In 2005, Van De Giesen was inducted into the Attleboro Area Football Hall of Fame.
In addition to his wife Megan, who is pregnant with the couple's second child, and daughter Avery, Van De Giesen is survived by his parents, Ruth Ann and Calvin Van De Giesen; his sister Caitlin; and two brothers, Ryan and Christian.
Funeral arrangements are pending, and will be announced later this week, his family said.
Van De Giesen, who was on his third tour of duty, having served previously in Iraq, was well-known in the community.
Friends reacted with shock and devastation as news of his death began circulating in North Attleboro.
"He was a great kid," said Sandy Vandette, a friend. "Our sons played football together. Kyle was the quarterback and Mark was the wide receiver. Kyle was always determined, focused and well liked.
"He always knew he wanted to fly helicopters. It's so sad because he was such a wonderful kid. You hear on the news about people getting killed overseas, and you pray for them, but you never expect it to hit home here in North Attleboro. It's really hard."
Town Administrator Mark Fisher volunteered as a trainer with the North Attleboro High School football team when Van De Giesen was the team's quarterback.
"Everyone in the community who knew Kyle over the years is just shocked and stricken by this tragedy. All our prayers are with his wife, daughter, parents, brothers and sister," Fisher said. "Everyone is absolutely devastated.
"I had the opportunity to know Kyle when he was in school with my daughter Katie," Fisher said. "He was an outstanding young kid. I hate to use the word kid - he was always a gentleman and truly a bright shining star."
Tony Calcia, who also volunteered with North Attleboro High School's football team while Van De Giesen was the quarterback, said, "Kyle was a brave young man who is somebody that anyone who knew him can be proud of."
Calcia said Van De Giesen distinguished himself at North Attleboro High School - both academically and on the football field - as well as during his military career.
"He cared enough about the country, his community and his family to make sacrifices to protect us all," Calcia said. "We all should remember the debt of gratitude we owe to young men and women like Kyle who serve in the military. This is a terrible loss for us, and more importantly, his family."
Kurt Kummer, North Attleboro High School athletic director, called Van De Giesen "one of the best."
"He was a great student, kind to everybody, a leader," Kummer said. "He was the kind of kid who makes a difference. We're pretty devastated right now."
Principal Robert Gay this morning planned to tell students about Van De Giesen during a morning announcement.
"I will give a brief overview of what Kyle was about when he was at North Attleboro High School," Gay said Monday night. "I am going to talk about how he was a successful quarterback who led the team to the championship, was a member of the track team, voted best looking, was an officer with the SADD chapter, an officer in peer group leadership.
"He was just a very mature, special young man who decided to go off and serve his nation, and unfortunately paid the ultimate price."
While Gay came to the school after Van De Giesen graduated, his sister and brother were at the school during his tenure.
"I got to know him and met him several times," Gay said, adding he also knows Van De Giesen's parents. "Kyle would show up for games and be around the school. He certainly was a very impressive young man. I just think for the town it is just a devastating blow."
After graduating from North Attleboro High, Van De Giesen went on to St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., where he became the first varsity quarterback after the college's return to intercollegiate football in 1999.
However, Van De Giesen cut short his football career after that year, college officials said, preferring to concentrate on his studies.
Professor Peter Candella, chairman of the department of criminal justice at St. Anselm, said becoming a military pilot was an enduring dream for Van De Giesen.
"His leadership is what set him apart," Candella said. "He made connections with just about every constituency on campus, and he was very focused on becoming a pilot."