Saturday, March 17, 2007

James L. Arnold dies of injuries from I.E.D.

MATTAWAN -- An entire Van Buren County town is mourning the loss of a second native who has been killed while fighting the war in Iraq.

Pfc. Jim Arnold, 21, of Mattawan, a soldier with the US Army Infantry, died Thursday. There aren't many details yet about how he died.

He graduated from Mattawan High School in 2004 and was a member of the school's hockey team.

Many say Arnold was the kind of guy you would have been friends with in high school, no matter who you are. Everyone knew him.

"Jimmy" is remembered as an enthusiastic hockey player, with school spirit to spare. He helped start the "Blue Crew" to cheer at events. The school's principal calls Arnold a natural leader that other kids looked to for guidance.

Although he graduated when the current seniors were only freshmen, Arnold is well-remembered to students in a small town where everyone knows everyone else.

"When it comes down to it, we're all Wildcats, we're all part of Mattawan, and we all come together to support one another in difficult times," Colin Ripmaster told 24 Hour News 8. "And I've seen that today as students gather around tables, as they talk in the hallway, and this is about kids who graduated four years ago."

This is the second death of a Mattawan graduate in Iraq this year. Arnold's classmate, 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Luis Castillo, was killed in January.

Some students are already asking about creating a tribute to honor Arnold. Hockey players want to retire his number - #3 - or begin an award in his name, much as wrestlers did in honor of Castillo.