Saturday, February 03, 2007

Jason Corbett laid to rest

Jason Corbett had a laugh you could hear a mile away. He enjoyed the outdoors, learning Latin and serving his country as a soldier.

For softball games, he'd show up in orange shoes, knee-high socks and a red headband. That, his friends said, was just Jason being Jason.

Those friends, along with family and fellow soldiers, honored Corbett Tuesday at his funeral in Casper, two weeks after he was killed in combat in Iraq.

Corbett, an Army corporal and paratrooper, died Jan. 15 from wounds he suffered when his unit came under enemy small-arms fire in Karmah, Iraq. The 23-year-old Casper man had served in Iraq since the fall.

An estimated 300 to 400 people, including Gov. Dave Freudenthal and members of the state Legislature, attended the memorial service for Corbett at First Christian Church in Casper. He was buried at the city's Highland Cemetery.

Mourners recalled a young man with a contagious smile who was proud to serve in the Army.

"It was a passion for him, to be out there and doing something important," said Erin Flanagan, who went to junior high and high school with Corbett.

Corbett joined the Army in May 2004. After training, he was stationed at Fort Richardson in Alaska, where he met Amanda Dodson, the love of his life. The two had planned to marry after he returned from Iraq.

During the hour-long memorial service, Dodson recalled the couple's adventures in Alaska. Corbett, she said, was her hero and true love.

He taught her to drive a stick shift in his Subaru, which he dubbed, "Blue Steel." The couple enjoyed watching sunsets and fishing for monster salmon in Alaska's Kenai River. Before Corbett was deployed to Iraq, they went on a hunt for black bear.

"A smile never left his face," she said.

Although he didn't bag a bear, Corbett wasn't disappointed, she recalled. Instead, he began planning for another hunt once he returned from Iraq.

Corbett was born in Oklahoma in 1983 and moved to Casper the following year with his mother, Megan Schafer. His last name was Vantrease when he attended Kelly Walsh High School, where he studied Latin and competed in track, and graduated in 2001. He studied biology at Casper College before joining the Army.

Mark Hileman, who taught and coached Corbett at Kelly Walsh, told mourners that Corbett touched his heart and made him laugh.

"Sometimes you have a student that teaches you about life," Hileman said.

At the conclusion of the service, Maj. Gen. William G. Webster, director of operations at the U.S. Northern Command, presented Corbett's mother with her son's medals, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

"It is really important for our nation to remember soldiers like Jason," Webster said later.

Corbett was part of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson.

The Rev. Paul Hallock, who lead Tuesday's memorial service, said he'd remember Corbett for his courage.

"He was very proud to be an American soldier," Hallock said.

During the service, Hallock implored mourners to make Corbett's sacrifice meaningful in their own lives.

Afterward, a funeral procession accompanied Corbett's body to Highland Cemetery. There, members of the Wyoming Army National Guard carried his gray, flag-draped casket to the grave site.

Hallock read from Psalm 139. Soldiers fired three volleys and saluted as "Taps" was played. Corbett's mother was presented with a folded American flag.

Following the ceremony, Corbett's friends reflected on his life.

Kory Harrison, who played softball with Corbett, recalled his huge smile and unforgettable laugh.

"You could hear it a mile away," Harrison said.

Flanagan remembered Corbett showing up at her house one night to play with Nerf guns. Toy darts from the guns eventually covered the house.

"He was always hilarious," she said. "He was always smiling and out to have a good time."

From the Star Tribune

Related Link:
Jason Corbett remembered

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Jason J. Corbett slain by sniper