Marine officials confirmed Thursday that a 24-year-old Marine from Leesburg was killed during combat operations in one of Afghanistan's most tumultuous provinces.
Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton was killed Saturday in what was originally called a roadside bomb explosion in Afghanistan.
Details released by the U.S. Marine Corps and the Department of Defense show that Sutton was killed during combat operations in the Helmand Province -- Afghanistan's largest province and one viewed as a Taliban stronghold.
According to the 2nd Marine Division Public Affairs Office, Sutton was a mortarman assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division. He had been in the corps since 2009 and was promoted to Lance Corporal in October 2010.
His awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the NATO Medal.
Officials and the public in Leesburg continue to work to organize funeral plans.
An account has been set up at Heritage Bank to help Sutton's wife and step-daughter defray the cost of the funeral and handle any other pending expenses, according to bank officials.
Some are also selling yard signs and window decals to honor Sutton. Art Sign company reportedly is making a limited number of yard signs and AC Customs is designing window decals.
Funeral arrangements still were not set, despite rumors that the Lee County Chamber of Commerce had been given the go-ahead to organize a tribute along a planned processional route.
"We haven't been given any kind of "OK" yet," Lisa Davis, Vice President and spokesperson of the Lee County Chamber said. "We're waiting to hear back from some people but we're not in charge of this, the family is...we'll assist in any way we can."
Hill Mackey, at Kimbrell-Stern funeral home, said they're still working with the military to facilitate Sutton's arrival back stateside.
"We're still on their timeline at this point," Mackey said. "Everything is still tentative until Mr. Sutton arrives."
Helmand Province has been one of the most deadly places for U.S. and NATO forces who continue to conduct anti-Taliban operations throughout the region.
Early Thursday morning, a key Taliban leader who had led violent Spring offensives near Kandahar and who had pledged to rekindle insurgent operations throughout the country was arrested along with a handful of his top lieutenants, according to International Security Assistant Task Force.
The arrests were made while forces were in search of Taliban leaders in Nad 'Ali district of Helmand province, the report states.
Earlier in the month, nine tons of explosives believed to be used to build suicide and car bombs were seized in the southern part of the province. The explosives are believed to have been smuggled into the country from Pakistan and were confiscated May 15.
Helmand is believed to be defended by the Taliban so ardently because it's one of Afghanistan's most lucrative opium-producing provinces. According to the CIA factbook, the federal government believes the Taliban is using opium sales across the globe to finance their military operations in the country.