Army Spec. Thomas K. Doerflinger of Silver Spring had been in Iraq less than a month when his unit was hit by small-arms fire. He died Thursday in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, according to the Department of Defense.
Doerflinger, 20, was a 2002 graduate of Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, where he received an International Baccalaureate degree. He joined the Army soon after graduation and completed basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. He became a member of the 25th Infantry Division's Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Lewis, Wash.
He was deployed to Iraq on Oct. 15.
He was quiet, very smart and studious, said his cousin Chris Doerflinger. His father, Richard M. Doerflinger, deputy director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a well-known scholar and advocate who has written and spoken of such issues as assisted suicide, cloning, euthanasia and stem-cell research to Congress, churches and the media.
Richard and Lee Ann Doerflinger released a statement through the Archdiocese of Washington: "Our son Thomas was a smart, dedicated, wonderful young man who volunteered for the Army to serve his country and protect innocent people. He understood the risks of his chosen path and gave his life doing what he had committed himself to doing -- standing against those who have no respect for human life. Even as we grieve for our loss we honor the ideals he stood for and ask others to do the same."
His sister Anna Doerflinger, 23, told the Associated Press that her brother was quiet, "not your typical play-video-games kind of guy." She said he wrote stories and poems, was funny and loved Johnny Cash's music.
Thomas Doerflinger also is survived by another sister, Maria, 17, and a brother, Matthew, 12. The family will make funeral arrangements after his body is returned to the United States.
Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said they plan to celebrate a Mass at their home parish and burial in a private cemetery.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.