A soldier with a passion for martial arts from Baltimore was killed Thursday in Afghanistan when the vehicle he was in hit a roadside explosive, according to authorities.
Army Spec. Jameel T. Freeman, 26, died in Kandahar province with four other soldiers after an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle, according to Department of Defense officials.
The soldiers’ remains were flown to Dover Air Force Base on Saturday. All five were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
Freeman arrived at Fort Drum in April 2010 and was deployed with his unit to Afghanistan in March, according to the Defense Department. He previously served in Iraq from August 2007 to April 2008.
Del Ali Rawlings, 46, a longtime friend and mentor, remembered Freeman’s discipline and dedication to his wife and two young children.
“He was a courageous, brave individual, an all-around good guy,” said Rawlings, who taught and trained Freeman in kuntao, a form of martial arts practiced in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Rawlings met Freeman when the two worked together as security officers for the University of Maryland when Freeman was 19, Rawlings said.
“He constantly bugged me to teach him [kuntao],” said Rawlings, who founded the Black Tiger Kuntao Academy in Baltimore in 2005.
Freeman trained three hours a day, four days a week with Rawlings, completing rigorous routines including 2,000 jumping jacks and 800 push-ups. He competed in world championships held in New Orleans and Chicago, Rawlings said.
“I demand a whole lot from my students, and he was the first one to reach a black belt,” Rawlings said. Photos of Freeman and his fighting trophies decorate Rawlings’ studio in Windsor Mill, he said.
Freeman’s numerous awards and decorations for his military service include the Army Commendation Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and two Army Reserve Component Achievement medals.
He is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and two children, Jameel Jr., 5, and Jenessa, 2.
A candlelight vigil is scheduled for Sunday, according to a Facebook page created in his memory.