‘Great son, great soldier’ from Smyrna mysteriously killed in Belarus

Major Kyle Tafel was 36 years old.

Major Kyle Tafel was 36 years old.

The U.S. Army is investigating the mysterious death of a soldier who lived in Smyrna and died while off-duty on a trip to Belarus, officials said.

Kyle Tafel, 36 years old, was a major in the Georgia Army National Guard and was stationed in the Clay National Guard Center at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta. He had served in the National Guard in Georgia for 17 years.

Last month, he took a trip to Belarus with two of his aunts because one of them was competing in a weightlifting competition, his father Kevin Tafel told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“He enjoyed traveling, and he, I’m sure, had some reservations” about going to Belarus, Tafel said.

On June 12, Major Tafel was killed — and his family still doesn’t know how or why.

On the night of his death, Tafel was staying with his aunts on the 10th floor of a hotel, his father said.

“Nobody truly knows what happened,” Kevin Tafel said. “Nothing is official or verified.”

It’s possible that he was pushed off of his balcony or off the roof, he said.

“My sisters were extremely upset. They were freaking out,” he said. "They couldn’t find out how he was out of [his room].”

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command is investigating the soldier’s death, according to National Guard spokeswoman Desiree Bamba.

But his father isn’t necessarily craving answers. Finding out exactly what happened is “not going to bring him back,” he said.

Tafel’s body returned to Georgia on Wednesday. His funeral is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Friday at Darby Funeral Home in Canton.

After the stop in Belarus, Tafel and his aunts had plans to go to Hungary. Tafel, who is originally from Syracuse, New York, was fairly familiar with the Eastern European region, since he had spent time stationed in the country of Georgia, the father said.

“He was a fun-loving, very generous son,” Kevin Tafel said. “Great son, great soldier.”

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