On Monday, Rosemary Palmer, mother of Marine Lance Corporal Augie Schroeder who was killed in Iraq on August 3rd, 2005, was interviewed on NPR’s "On Point" during a program marking a heartrending milestone in Iraq. When asked about the significance of the milestone she said:
"For every military family, the only number that matters is one."
The one we honor and pay tribute to tonight is Tech. Sgt. William Jefferson Jr., 34, of Norfolk, VA.
He was just a few short weeks away from coming home from Afghanistan to his wife, daughter and another daughter who will be born in May.
He is coming home. But not the way he was supposed to.
I Got the News Today – March 26, 2008 ~ (The phrase is meant to symbolize that terrible knock on the door that any number of families got today, bringing with it the news that their one has died.)
Tech. Sgt. William H. Jefferson, Jr., 34, Norfolk, VA
From the DoD:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of an Airman who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Tech. Sgt. William H. Jefferson, Jr., 34, of Norfolk, Va., died March 22 near Sperwan Ghar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C.
TSgt Jefferson was assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina. The squadron is part of the 720th Special Tactics Group, which has special operations combat controllers and pararescuemen who work jointly in special tactics teams. Their missions include air traffic control for creating casualty collection stations, establishing air assault landing zones, providing trauma care and meteorological forecasting.
In recent months, the area where TSgt Jefferson was killed has been home to battles between NATO troops and Taliban insurgents as well as reconstruction efforts for displaced villagers, according to news reports.
He was weeks away from coming home to his wife Kristy, 8-year-old daughter Tyler and a baby girl, who will be born in May. She will be named Natalie.
His grandmother spoke as only a grandmother could, to the Washington Post:
"He was a very good boy, and he loved his job in the Air Force," Nora Jefferson said in a telephone interview from her Norfolk home. "He was a very good boy. He would do anything for you."
A 1991 graduate of Norfolk’s Lake Taylor High School, TSgt Jefferson, known as "Bubba," knew he wanted to be a Marine well before he graduated. Eventually he joined the Air Force. His sister Tammy Davis was interviewed by HamptonRoads.com:
He was on his third tour in that part of the world, his sister said.
In e-mails home to his family during his deployments, he had said he could see improvement over time.
"He talked about the differences he saw," Davis said, "that everyone was making things better. He definitely believed that he should be there and that the U.S. was doing the right thing. He fully supported it 100 percent."
He was to have returned stateside in 30 days, Davis said.
The reason for the switch from being a Marine to an Airman? As his sister told Hampton Roads.com:
He spent four year in the Corps. But even as he grew into a good warrior, he also realized he wanted to be a good husband, she said.
"He had decided he wanted to marry his high school sweetheart," Davis said, "but he realized that in the Marine Corps, he was gone way too much."
When he retired from the Air Force he was planning on becoming a high school teacher and was working on his Master’s degree to attain that goal. His sister said he picked that profession ""because he thought that kids at that age need direction to pick the right path" and not "pick the wrong path." He "just thought he could help kids."
TSgt Jefferson had married his high school sweetheart. This May, when Natalie is due to be born, they would have celebrated their 15th anniversary. Tammy Davis provided even more insight into the kind of man they’ve lost:
"Everybody loved him," Davis said. "It didn’t matter who he met, he just attracted people. He had a great sense of humor; just a big kid."
She said the family has also learned he was respected. They have spoken with other men in his unit who said he was "a mentor, a great leader."
Asked if there was anything she wanted to add about her brother, Davis’ voice suddenly grew stronger.
"Just tell people how proud we are of him," Davis said.
"He was doing his job. He was doing what he thought was right," she said.
"He is actually the all-American boy story; two kids, white picket fence," she said, "a true hero in every sense of the word."~Source
I’ll close with a personal comment on the SOCNET site:
Another fallen... WJ will be missed by all.
He was an awesome guy, great instructor, and silent professional at heart.
He's with our other brothers for sure.
Rest in peace, Tech. Sgt. William H. Jefferson, Jr. May you indeed be flying high above us with your brothers.
With sincere apologies if I spelled TSgt. Jefferson’s wife’s name incorrectly. News coverage had it spelled Kristy and Christie, depending on the source.
REMEMBER THEM WELL
Remember our troops: those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, those who are still in harm’s way and those who have returned home:
Please take a moment to honor the memories of our fallen service men and women who have passed through this world much too quickly.
You can view the stories and remembrances of these heroes at sites such as Iraq Veterans Memorial and Honor the Fallen.
Regarding Iraq, the Department of Defense has confirmed 3,996 deaths, with 5 more casulaties yet to be confirmed, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. 490 American troops, including TSgt. Jefferson, have died in Afghanistan since 2001.
Supporting the Troops
If you haven’t had a chance to put together a care package for a unit in Iraq or Afghanistan - it’s such a good feeling to know you are sending our troops things they really need. I’m not talking about the comforts of home – it’s necessities like socks and underwear and soup packets and feminine hygiene products and paper and pens...and school supplies, treats and trinkets they can pass out to the Iraqi and Afghan children. Basic things that they are so thrilled to receive.
There are a few ways to do this. You can go through troopcarepackage.com or anysoldier.com. If you go to the anysolider site click on WhereToSend for a searchable database. For example if you search "By Latest Email" you’ll see the troops who most recently have submitted a request for specific items. You then request their mailing address. Read Ninepatch’s wonderful diary on the how-tos of it all – it couldn’t be any easier thanks to her.
Operation Helmet is another great organization whose mission is to provide helmet upgrades.
Supporting Our Veterans
We have a solemn duty to ensure that our veterans are properly cared for. Consider visiting sites such as StandUp4Vets.org, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Welcome Back Veterans.org and Fisher House to see where your help is needed. Other ways to help can be found in this diary.
The Department of Defense has confirmed 3,987 deaths, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. 487 American troops have died in Afghanistan since 2001.
Please bear in mind that these diaries are read by friends and family of the service members chronicled here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.