AUGUSTA — For the third time in a month, a Mainer has died while on duty in Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday.

Army Pvt. Buddy McLain, 24, of Mexico was killed by enemy fire Monday, according to Gov. John Baldacci’s office. McLain was a cavalry scout with the 101st Airborne Division.

One of three brothers, McLain graduated from Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, school officials said. He was deployed on June 27 to Afghanistan for six months.

Jonathan True, 21, of Mexico said he was shocked when he learned Monday that his best friend had been killed.

True said that after McLain married Chelsea Freeman, he was stationed with the 101st Airborne in Fort Campbell, Ky. After completing basic training, he returned home for 30 days this spring and met his baby son, Owen, for the first time.

True said McLain graduated from Mountain Valley High School in 2006 and joined the Army to provide for his family because he had no job or money, and was stuck in a small town that didn’t offer good job opportunities.

“People told him that he wasn’t going to make it in life and that he was a nobody, and he was like, ‘Well, all right, I’m going to prove you all wrong,’ and the one way he could do that was by joining the military,” True said.

People told McLain he’d never make it through boot camp, True said.

“But one day he came back in uniform and he proved everybody wrong,” True said.

Townspeople and officials reacted with disbelief and sorrow.

“It’s god-awful sad,” Robert Acheson of Dixfield said Tuesday of the young man he’d met several months before through friends. “He was one hell of a nice kid, immediately likable.”

“Private McLain died serving his country. He has earned the lasting gratitude of his state and nation. We will honor him for the hero that he is,” Baldacci said in a statement. “During this tragic time, we all should keep his family and friends in our prayers.”

Two other Mainers died in Afghanistan during November. Another soldier from the 101st Airborne, Spc. Andrew Hutchins, 20, of New Portland died on Nov. 8 in Khost province. Marine 1st Lt. James R. Zimmerman, whose parents live in Smyrna Mills, was killed Nov. 2 in Helmand province.

 

Sun Journal reporter Terry Karkos contributed to this story.