updated 7/1/2006 12:49:58 PM ET 2006-07-01T16:49:58

The U.S. military on Saturday said it was investigating the death of a soldier in eastern Afghanistan as a possible “friendly fire incident.”

The Defense Department said Pfc. Justin R. Davis, 19, of Gaithersburg, Md., died on June 25 in eastern Kunar province when he came in contact with indirect fire — a term used for mortar shelling — while on patrol during combat operations.

“The circumstances of the soldier’s death are under investigation as a possible friendly fire incident,” the statement said.

In Afghanistan, the U.S.-led coalition released a statement saying an investigation into the incident is under way.

“We are looking into Pfc. Davis’ death to determine what happened. No final determination has been made and we will not release any information relating to the investigation till it is complete,” the statement said.

Davis had been assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, N.Y.

Soldier 'died doing what he loved'
His mother, Paula Davis, told The Frederick News Post that Davis “was passionate about joining the service.

“He would always say, ‘This is my dream. I am going to follow it,”’ Paula Davis told the newspaper. “He died doing what he loved.”

Justin Davis had been in Afghanistan since March and had plans to come home for several weeks in August.

“It was a calling,” she said. “It was a life that fit him.”

Davis’ body arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Tuesday, Paula Davis said. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors July 10.

Coalition troops have been operating in eastern Afghanistan to battle insurgents active along the Pakistan border.

According to U.S. Army data earlier this year, 17 soldiers have died from friendly fire in the past four years — 10 in Iraq and seven in Afghanistan. They occurred in 11 separate incidents.

The most famous case was the 2004 death of former NFL player Pat Tillman, an Army Ranger and corporal, who died during a gunbattle near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. That case triggered a criminal investigation that is still pending.

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