Derek McConnell, a U.S. Army Specialist who lost his legs while deployed in Afghanistan and later won the Operation: Tie The Knot contest has died.

Krystina Dressler shows off her engagement ring with Derek McConnell (Townsquare Media NJ)

News of the 23-year-old's death was posted on the Team Derek Facebook page which McConnell and fiancee Krystina Dressler used to rally support for votes in order to win New Jersey 101.5's "Operation Tie The Knot" contest last fall in which a military couple was awarded various components of a wedding provided by a number of participating sponsors spearheaded by Venus Jewelers of Somerset. The couple received the most votes to win

"It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that ur hero, Derek, deployed to Heaven today. He fought hard right until the end. He will be missed and never for gotten. Sleep with the angels, my brave, strong boy," posted McConnell's mother. "And give Noni, Nana, and Granny a hug from Mom. Team, please past flute our Krystina. She needs all our love and support. She is a brave warrior."

A cause of death has not been determined. He was found dead in his bed at home according to the Star Ledger.

Losing A Hero

McConnell's mother Sibohan penned her own letter posted on DC Military Family Life in which she expressed her sorrow at the loss of her son. "How do I wrap my head around going from a Blue Star Mother, to a Silver Star Mother, to the dreaded Gold Star Mother, all within two years’ time."

McConnell stepped on 2 improvised explosive devices (IED)  to save his fellow soldiers while on patrol in Kandahar in July, 2011. Dressler, who met McConnell when they attended West Essex High School, was by his side as he recovered from brain injuries, a cracked skull and jaw, internal injuries and the loss of his legs while at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. according to the Caldwells Patch.

“I believe we deserve to win because with all the BOTH of us have gone through in the journey, the one thing we keep talking about is how badly we want to be married,” Dressler wrote in her contest entry. “That would make our life, and complete our happy ending.”

Funeral plans are pending.