NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — An Army paratrooper from central Massachusetts was killed this week in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced Friday.

Spc. Brian Arsenault, 28, died Thursday in Ghazni of injuries he sustained when his unit was engaged by enemy small-arms fire, the Department of Defense said.

Arsenault was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

His relatives met with reporters Friday outside their home in Northborough.

Dan Arsenault, his father, read a statement calling him "a vibrant, free spirit that has forever touched so many lives." He said his son will be remembered for his "devilish good looks," wit and smile.

Arsenault's sister, Lindsay Arsenault, held a photo collage showing him with family and friends, and she wiped away tears.

"As a family, the sorrow is unbearable," Dan Arsenault said. "But we must be strong for our son, who has given his life for a cause he believed in."

Brian Arsenault attended Algonquin High School and played hockey and basketball. Flags at public buildings in his hometown of 14,000 residents were lowered to half-staff.

Arsenault had been in Afghanistan since January and was due to return in November, his family said.

He enlisted in November 2011, the Army said, and was assigned to the 1st Brigade last November. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal during his service.

His battalion commander, Lt. Col. Chris Hockenberry, said in a statement that he "was an exceptional Paratrooper and a valued member of our team."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time," Hockenberry said.