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Family, fellow troops mourn soldier killed in non-combat vehicle rollover in Kuwait

His company commander described him as “one the smartest, quirkiest infantrymen that I had the privilege to meet and get to know."
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Army Spc. Jayson Reed Haven
Army Spc. Jayson Reed Haven was killed in a non-combat vehicle rollover in Kuwait on May 25, 2023. (U.S. Army photo)

A soldier with the South Carolina Army National Guard was killed in a non-combat vehicle rollover at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, on May 25, defense officials announced.

Spc. Jayson Reed Haven, 20, was a machine gunner assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, South Carolina Army National Guard at the time of his death, defense officials said.

Haven was deployed to Kuwait with Task Force Rattler, a group of South Carolina and Ohio National Guardsmen that supports U.S. military operations in southwest Asia.

“The Rattler Family is heartbroken over the loss of Spc. Jayson Haven,” Lt. Col. Samuel McDowell, commander of Task Force Rattler, said in a statement. “Spc. Haven’s love of service to his nation and his fellow Soldiers was infectious. The consummate infantryman, he had the unique ability to bring humor to difficult situations while executing every task with technical and tactical competence.”

“Spc. Haven’s influence will have lasting impacts throughout the Rattler formation. We mourn the immense loss of Spc. Haven and send our thoughts and prayers to his family.”

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No information was immediately available on the rollover, according to the Pentagon. The incident is under investigation.

Haven’s death happened just one day after Air Force Maj. Stephen Khou was killed elsewhere in Kuwait in a non-combat incident at Camp Arifjan. At least five U.S. service members have died in non-combat incidents in Kuwait since 2020.

Originally from Aiken, South Carolina, Haven joined the Army in January 2020 and attended one station unit training at Fort Benning, Georgia, according to his official service record, which was provided to Task & Purpose. 

Haven’s unit deployed to the U.S. Central Command theater of operations in 2022 as part of Operation Spartan Shield.

Haven’s military awards include the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” Device, Army Service Ribbon, and Overseas Service Ribbon.

He died two months before he was scheduled to return from Kuwait and just one month from his 21st birthday, a statement from Haven’s family reads.

“Jayson’s many friends and fellow service members all looked to him as a brother,” his family’s statement reads. “He died at the peak of his young life, proud of himself and his accomplishments, and very excited about the incredible future that he and everyone who knew him was sure that awaited him. The world lost a gentle and caring soul on the verge of great things, and he will forever be our hero.”

Task Force Rattler posted a video on its Facebook page showing Tuesday’s memorial service for Haven, at which Haven’s company commander Capt. Mark A Samuelson delivered a moving tribute.

Samuelson fought back his tears as he described Haven as “one the smartest, quirkiest infantrymen that I had the privilege to meet and get to know.”

Haven joined the South Carolina Army National Guard at the age of 17 and later joined Bravo Company, Samuelson said.

“This unit would truly serve as his home in more ways than one,” said Samuelson, who added that he got to know Haven very well after taking command of the company in October 2021.

During his current deployment, Haven served as a platoon radiotelephone operator, or RTO, and worked closely with the company’s RTO, Samuelson said.

“Through all of his RTO duties, Jayson would share a lot of random details with me, whether it’s just something from the news that day, or maybe it was just two cents on whatever the conversation was that was going on,” Samuelson recalled. “Jayson was truly one of the smartest people in the room, no matter where he was.”

Samuelson recalled how excited Haven became when he learned in February that he had been accepted to the University of Michigan, where he planned to earn his commission through the university’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.

Haven planned to major in computer science, and he wanted to become a military intelligence officer, Samuelson recalled. As soon as he was accepted to the University of Michigan, he began to wear its apparel, including T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts.

Later, Haven was extremely excited to be one of ten soldiers his company selected to operate the Mobile, Low, slow, small, unmanned aircraft Integrated Defeat System, or M-LIDS, Samuelson said.

“To see how far Jayson had come over such a short period of time that I got to know him was truly astonishing,” Samuelson said, his voice breaking. “Jayson built himself up from the young kid that I met to the intelligent infantryman that we all knew here at Camp Buehring. He stood out with his loyalty, his love of the mission and  knowledge about everything.”

“Jayson, [Bravo] company will truly remember you and will carry you in our hearts.”

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