Saturday, February 03, 2007

Jamie Wilson laid to rest

Under a sky threatening snow, a brown van pulled up to Arlington National Cemetery yesterday to deliver the flag-draped coffin of Army Staff Sgt. Jamie D. Wilson.

The career soldier -- who had lived in orphanages and foster homes from the age of 10 -- knew as a young boy that he wanted to be in the Army and wasted no time trying to enlist when he turned 17. He needed parental consent, something he didn't have, so he got in line at his local courthouse and waited to talk to a judge.

"Everyone else there that day was in trouble, but he was just trying to join the Army," said Wilson's wife, Christine Wilson. "It was the judge who signed the papers."

Wilson, 34, of Temple, Tex., was killed by small-arms fire Jan. 22 while on guard duty at his post near Fallujah, Iraq. His wife said he had just cleared a car through a checkpoint and was getting back into his Humvee when he was struck by a sniper's bullet.

"He was an excellent rifleman," Christine Wilson said of her husband. If the sniper "wasn't such a coward, shooting at him from somewhere concealed, he would still be with us."

Wilson, who arrived in Iraq in October, was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska. He was the 22nd paratrooper killed in Iraq since the 3,500-member brigade was deployed there last fall.

Wilson had served 16 years in the Army. He hoped eventually to be stationed back at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he had spent most of his career, for his last four years of service. His goal, his wife said, was to become a deputy sheriff.

In a program distributed at a memorial service Thursday in Clayton, N.C., Christine Wilson described her relationship with her husband and how faith brought them together. They were married just two years before he was killed, but during that time, she said, her husband found something he had never had, someone to love him "unquestioningly."

She said it was a big transition for the quiet man whose mother gave him up to an "abusive, alcoholic" father when he was born. When he was 10, his father died. No one in the family would claim him, and her husband was placed in orphanages and foster homes, she said.

"It is a tribute to his own personal strength and values that he turned out to be the man he was," Christine Wilson wrote in the program. "He was a good match for me, but beyond that, I was able to offer him what he had never had before. . . . He finally, for the first time in his life, had a family that loved him."

Yesterday, a small group of mourners, braced against the cold, watched silently as a casket team carefully moved Wilson's silver coffin to its resting place amid a cascade of floral wreaths.

The group, which included Wilson's wife and his 7-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Cassidy, bowed their heads briefly for a prayer, their dark coats in stark contrast to the flowers.

"Before he left for Iraq, he said it was his responsibility to protect his troops and make sure they made it home to their families," Christine Wilson said. "I believe he will work extra hard now to stick to his promise and watch over them."

From the Washington Post

Related Link:
Jamie D. Wilson slain by sniper