DAWSONVILLE - A staff sergeant from Dawsonville who was killed in Afghanistan last week is being remembered as a loving family man and dedicated soldier.
Alexander G. Povilaitis, 47, died when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Defense.
"He was one of the greatest men I have ever known. I don't even know what to say right now," said Povilaitis' ex-wife, Kim, who was married to him for nearly 30 years.
She said their two children, Danny, 27, and Blaine, 21, were in shock when the news reached them Thursday afternoon.
Povilaitis' other survivors include his current wife, also named Kim, two stepchildren and a granddaughter.
Based in Washington at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Povilaitis was assigned to the 570th Sapper Company, 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade.
He was a decorated soldier with medals and decorations including the Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals and an Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star.
Pam Hamalainen, president of the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County, said it's a sad time for the county and Povilaitis' family. She said his death called to mind another war casualty.
"It is truly a tragic time. It's opening a wound that just started to heal because seven years ago on June 18, 1st Lt. Noah Harris was killed in action," Hamalainen said. "Our heart goes out to the family."
Harris, 24, was killed in 2005 when insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at his Humvee. He had been in Iraq for just five months.
Army officials later presented Harris' family with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Local veteran Bill Sexton said sacrifices like those of Harris and Povilaitis are always sobering.
"It is a sad day when an American has to give up his life to help us enjoy our lives," he said. "We should appreciate what they sacrifice for us more with every breath."
Povilaitis began his service in the Army in February 1984 and served three years as a single channel radio operator, according to record units.
After a break, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in March 2008.
In September of that year, Povilaitis re-entered the active duty Army and reported to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for further training and advanced individual training in Military Occupational Specialty 12B, meant for combat engineers, according to unit records.
He was twice deployed to Iraq from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. From November 2009-July 2010, he was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Povilaitis was transferred to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state in June 2011 and first deployed to Afghanistan with his unit a month later. He was still on that deployment when the fatal attack occurred.
Michael P. McMahon, the post commander of Lumpkin and White County's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5533, responded with sadness for Povilaitis and his family.
"It is a sad event anytime that a service member pays the ultimate price for freedom and our nation, but when it hits so close to home, it touches every VFW member in our area, as we all understand the risks," he said.
He said post members await Povilaitis' return to show their condolences and respect.
Don Brown, vice president of Veterans Affairs of Dawson County, said local veterans will do everything they can to make sure Povilaitis' sacrifice is recognized and appreciated.
"It is a shame when we lose a soldier of our country," he said. "We will ensure he is remembered in our community and do our duty to make sure his name is honored."
As of Tuesday afternoon, family members said the viewing of the casket will be June 16 at Patterson's Funeral Home in Atlanta. He will be buried shortly after at the Georgia National Cemetery. Arrangements are still being finalized.