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UPDATE

Soldier with Placer County, Newcastle ties killed in Afghanistan

Manuel Vasquez, 22, killed Tuesday in Paktika province
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The Department of Defense reported Thursday the death on Tuesday of a soldier who has ties to Placer County. Spc. Manuel J. Vasquez, 22, West Sacramento, was killed in Paktika province, a statement from the Defense Department said. Vasquez is the grandson of Newcastle residents Joyce and Bill Costa The Costas have lived in Newcastle for 22 years and often had Vasquez over to their acreage during holidays and vacations while he was growing up. Joyce Costa said she learned of her grandson’s death by phone Wednesday and shock soon turned to tears as the reality of the situation began to take hold. Over the phone, she said she learned that Vasquez had been shot and killed while serving with his unit. He had reportedly been found in a lookout tower and an investigation is to determine events surrounding his death, she said. Less than six months ago, Vasquez was the center of attention as the family gathered for Thanksgiving and he stationed himself at his favorite location – at the barbecue preparing food for others, his grandmother remembered. By that time, Vasquez had already served 1½ years in the Army and had been in Afghanistan since early July. Vasquez grew up in West Sacramento but spent most of the past 10 years with his father – Costa’s son – in Citrus Heights. Joyce and Bill Costa look at photos of their grandson and see a young man who was quick with a joke or a smile, gravitated toward electronic games like many his age, enjoyed eating and barbecuing, and went too soon. Vasquez could have joined another branch of the service. “But he wanted to be where the action is,” Joyce Costa said. “At Thanksgiving, he was very happy. He loved being up there and the friends he made.” Bill Costa, himself an Army veteran, recalled a grandson who was the tallest – at 6 feet 3 inches – in the family and someone who loved to visit and ride on the tractor lawn mower. During his time in Afghanistan, Vasquez had been serving with a mortar artillery team, Bill Costa said. Joyce Costa said that Vasquez, one of 24 grandchildren, had been on the front line in Paktika province, which is located in the southeast of Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. Vasquez was with the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade in an isolated area. “He had to walk three miles to get to a computer,” Joyce Costa said. The Newcastle couple said that Vasquez was especially close with two of his brothers – Marcus and Raymond. All had matching tattoos inked on their arms with their names and hearts. The Defense Department did not provide information on the details of Vasquez’s death. Joyce Costa said that details of Vasquez’s funeral arrangements have yet to be worked out but members of his family had traveled to Dover, Del. on Thursday for a ceremony marking his return to American soil. Costa said she had anticipated that her grandson would be ending his tour in Afghanistan in July and returning home. “He was a wild and crazy kid and made people laugh,” Costa said. “Everybody loved that boy.”