(Updated Friday, January 11, 2008, 4:58 p.m.)

Sgt. James K. Healy died trying to make Afghanistan safer for its citizens and U.S.-led coalition in the country.

Healy, 25, a 2000 Hesperia High School graduate, was a member of the 703rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment based out of Fort Knox, Kentucky. His unit locates, recovers and dismantles improved explosive devices (IEDs), comparable to the bomb squad of a metropolitan police department.

A report in the News-Enterprise of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, describes Healy as a Star Wars fanatic who loved to draw, and designed a t-shirt for the 703rd and the company's coin.

Healy was on his way to disable an IED in Laghar Juy when his Humvee struck a hidden explosive. Healy and Maj. Michael L. Green, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, died at Jalalabad Airfield of wounds suffered in the explosion, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.

Healy's unit was deployed to Afghanistan in August as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the military operation in Afghanistan launched in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. The 24-member unit had previously been deployed in Iraq and suffered two fatalities there.

"Maria and I stand with all Californians in honoring Sergeant James Healy for his service in the United States Army," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday in a statement released to the media. "James will be remembered as a protector of freedom and a patriot of our country. Maria and I are deeply saddened by this loss and we wish to extend our thoughts and prayers to his family."

In honor of Sgt. Healy, capitol flags will be flown at half-staff on Friday. Flags at Hesperia City Hall were lowered Thursday and will remain so over the weekend.

This is the third loss suffered by Hesperia High Class of 2000. Lance Cpl. William J. Wiscowiche, 20, died in April 2004 in the Al-Anbar province of Iraq when his vehicle triggered an IED. Wiscowiche, a Victorville resident, attended Hesperia High through his junior year. A bomb in Samarra, Iraq, killed Spc. Armando Hernandez in August 2004.

Healy is survived by his wife Shannon and a 13-month-old son.

Funeral services for Healy have not been scheduled as of press time on Friday.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.