(JTA) — Hundreds of mourners filled a Savannah, Georgia, synagogue to remember a Jewish soldier killed in action in Afghanistan on July 12.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Andrew Celiz, 32, an Army Ranger and native of Summerville, Georgia, was wounded by enemy small-arms fire while helping to support a medical evacuation landing zone during a counterterrorism operation, Army officials said. He died at a medical treatment facility.
His funeral took place Wednesday afternoon at Congregation Mickve Israel in historic Savannah, the Post and Courier reported. Flags were lowered at half-staff throughout the state in his honor.
Friends from Summerville High School and The Citadel remembered him as “smart, caring and upbeat,” the paper reported.
“I’ve never seen a man love his wife and his child as much as he loved them,” a friend said. Celiz and his wife, Katie, began dating in high school.
The Savannah Jewish Educational Alliance and Savannah Jewish Federation mourned Celiz in a statement on Facebook.
“A husband, father, and leader, Chris was known as a man who ‘led from the front’; He was the first one in, worried about the welfare of his troops,” they wrote. “He died as he lived … as a hero.”
Celiz and his wife were contributors to the federation campaign.
Celiz deployed from 2008 to 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and from 2011 to 2012 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, according to the U.S. Defense Department. He was on his fifth deployment when he was killed.
Celiz was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.