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Army Maj. Paul Voelke, a Monroe native, dies in Afghanistan

Army Maj. Paul Voelke, 36, of Monroe, died

Army Maj. Paul Voelke, 36, of Monroe, died June 22 in Afghanistan of injuries that were not combat-related. Photo Credit: Handout

Maj. Paul Voelke, a Monroe native and a rising star in the Army, died Friday in Afghanistan, miliary officials said Monday.

Voelke, 36, died in Mazar-e-Sharif from "noncombat-related injuries," according to Army officials who declined to provide additional details.

According to a posting on his Army unit's Facebook page, Voelke, who had earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, was fatally injured when he was hit by an armored vehicle known as an MRAP, or mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle. Mazar-e-Sharif is a strategic city in northern Afghanistan.

Voelke, who was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, was the executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that flags on state buildings be flown at half-staff on Wednesday to honor Voelke.

"I join with all New Yorkers in mourning the loss of Maj. Voelke, and I send my deepest sympathies to his family, friends and fellow soldiers," Cuomo said Monday in a statement.

Army officials said they were conducting an investigation into the circumstances of Voelke's death. His remains were scheduled to arrive Monday afternoon at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, after which funeral arrangements will be made.

Voelke is survived by his wife, Traci, and sons Andrew (known as AJ), 8, and Ben, 6. They live near Fort Stewart in Georgia.

Voelke's uncle, Col. John Lindsay, said his nephew was rising rapidly through the ranks, snaring key positions, including a stint as an intern with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington.

"Very few folks are accepted to that program," Lindsay said. "He was given those opportunities because of his incredible talent."

In the aftermath of the Army's announcement came an outpouring of grief on the Facebook page of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment.

"This is a great loss to us all," the posting said. "Paul was a terrific officer ... Our thoughts tonight, from Helmand to Mazar (Afghan provinces), are with a wonderful officer and friend and his family."

Like other officers, Voelke was cycled through numerous units and postings in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lindsay said. "For the past nine years, he's been going down and back to Iraq and Afghanistan."

Voelke's wife, Traci, often was the one to comfort military families in times of loss, Lindsay said.

"She has been the one, over the years, to be there for so many soldiers' families that have gone through difficult times," he said, and now an "enormous" wave of support has gathered around the Voelke family.

"It's remarkable to see Army families come together to support the families of our fallen," Lindsay added.

Monroe Mayor Jim Purcell said the village was saddened to hear about Voelke's death.

"Our sympathies go out to the family of Maj. Paul Voelke," he said. "We want to thank him and honor him for his courage and his dedication to this country for the freedoms we enjoy today."

Voelke attended West Point from 1994 to 1998, earning a bachelor's degree in European history. He also received a master's degree in public policy from Georgetown University.

Lindsay described Voelke as a cerebral leader with a core of iron.

"Paul was a thinker," Lindsay said. "He was quiet and unassuming, but he was tough. To meet somebody in the Army who applies thought and logic and reason to everything he did was something soldiers respected a great deal."

Asked why Voelke joined the Army, Lindsay said: "He's a patriot. The notion of selfless service appealed to him as a young man. And West Point was just over the hill" from where he grew up.

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