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Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Jay Spino

As a paratrooper and nurse, Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Jay Spino's job was to help the wounded.

But no one could save the

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Waterbury

native Tuesday when he was fatally shot while serving with the

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U.S. Army
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in

Afghanistan

, his family said.

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Spino, 45, was shot in the back while unloading medical supplies, his cousin, Judi Van Alstyne of Berlin, said Wednesday.

He leaves his wife, Betty - whom he met in the military - and a stepdaughter, Kandice, 24. His parents, Rita and James Spino, raised him in Waterbury with his brothers, Glen and James Jr., and his sister, Maryanne. His home with Betty is in Fayetteville, N.C., near Fort Bragg.

Spino graduated from Holy Cross High School and Teikyo

Post University

, now known simply as Post University. He worked in the records room of Waterbury Hospital, where his mother also worked.

There, Spino was known as a conscientious but quiet worker, said Kathy Mancini, a fellow records employee, through hospital spokesman Matt Burgard. If someone needed information, Burgard said, "he'd go out of his way to help."

His mother said, "I was outgoing, but my son was quite shy. He blossomed when he joined the service. It was his true love."

Spino joined the Army in 1993 at age 29. At first, he was a medic, his mother said. Then he became a nurse, then a paratrooper and, finally, a paratrooper/nurse, trained to parachute into war-torn areas and help injured soldiers.

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This was his fifth assignment, she said; he was transferred from Iraq to Afghanistan two weeks ago.

His body is scheduled to be flown to Dover Air Force Base in

Delaware

on Friday, his mother said.

"He'll be coming home on

New Year's Day

."

*Staff writer David Owens and senior information specialist Tina Bachetti contributed to this story.

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