Sunday, March 25, 2007

Jim Arnold remembered

When Jim Arnold decided to join the Army, his family members worried about his safety.

They initially wanted him to reconsider but quickly backed the 21-year-old Mattawan native's plans when they realized he was serious about serving his country.

He enlisted nearly two years ago and eventually was sent to Iraq. On Wednesday, three of Arnold's four sisters remembered their brother with pride.

Arnold, a graduate of Mattawan High School and an Army specialist, was killed March 15 in Iraq after a roadside bomb exploded near a vehicle carrying him. A funeral service is planned for 11 a.m. Monday at Calvary Bible Church in Kalamazoo. His family will receive visitors from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Langeland Family Funeral Home's Westside Chapel in Oshtemo Township.

"It takes a lot of courage to join the Army in the time of war," said Michelle Smith, one of Arnold's sisters. "I don't think that we ever really realized how strong and brave that Jimmy had to be."

Smith and her sisters, Amanda Arnold and Laura Arnold, spoke of a brother who was easygoing and an avid fan of hockey, a sport that Jim Arnold played as a youngster and in high school.

Jim Arnold also is survived by a fourth sister, Christy Arnold, his father, Phillip Arnold, and his mother, Mary Ryan.

Sisters remember brother killed while serving with Army in Iraq

"Whenever I think of him I just picture him just standing there with his wide laugh and this big smile," Amanda Arnold said.

At the family's Mattawan home, the sisters looked through boxes of pictures that brought back happy memories. Their brother appears as a dutiful solider dressed in Army fatigues in Iraq in one picture and a smiling uncle holding an infant nephew in another.

The camera caught a playful Jim Arnold snoozing on the family couch with one of his big sisters, who often joked that their brother had four extra moms.

"Our favorite game to play with Jimmy growing up was, `Jimmy, who is your favorite sister?"' Smith said. "He just picked whoever had been the nicest to him in the last five minutes."

The sisters laughed as they thought about their kid brother.

"He was very laid back and easygoing," Smith said. "He didn't have to say, `Hey, I'm here.' You just knew he was there."

Perhaps that was in part because of Jim Arnold's physical stature. He was 6 feet 4 inches.

Jim Arnold had a network of friends he would visit whenever he came home on leave. He joined the Army in June 2005 and was stationed in Ft. Benning, Ga., for boot camp and Ft. Hood, Texas, for a year before being sent to Iraq in October.

"He was really happy doing what he did," Amanda Arnold said, noting that her brother sent weekly e-mails to family members or friends back in the United States.

Jim Arnold couldn't talk about the missions he carried out in Iraq, but he did try to reassure his family that everything would be fine, Laura Arnold said.

"He never really let us worry too much about it," she said.

The U.S. Army has awarded Jim Arnold several medals and honors posthumously, including the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantrymen Badge and the Bronze Star.

Jim Arnold's sisters say their brother's time in Iraq has made them think more about the mission of American troops in that country.

"I think I support it more, almost," Laura Arnold said.

Amanda Arnold said the Iraq mission has become much more personal with her brother's deployment and death.

"With Jimmy supporting it and Jimmy wanting to be there, that made me want to support it just for his sake," she said.

From the Gazette

Related Link:
James L. Arnold dies of injuries from I.E.D.