Thursday, March 01, 2007

Shawn Dunkin remembered

YORK -- A military chaplain and an officer came to Mike Dunkin's door Monday night.
Having served 20 years in the U.S. Army, Dunkin didn't need any explanation for the visit.

His son, 25-year-old Sgt. Shawn Dunkin, had died in Iraq.

"When I opened the door, I knew," said Dunkin, who learned that night that Shawn was traveling in Baghdad when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by a homemade bomb.

The Department of Defense announced Thursday that Shawn and two other soldiers died from wounds suffered in the explosion.

The accident happened on Monday, nearly a week before Shawn would have turned 26.

Shawn was raised in Virginia and had lived in Columbia. Mike Dunkin and his wife, Jan, moved to York County more than four years ago. Mike is a pilot who flies out of Charlotte. Jan is a court reporter.

Shawn wanted to make the military his career.

Long before he landed in the dust of Iraq, he protected others. When he was 12 years old, his family said, he and a cousin rescued five drowning girls from a river in Michigan.

Shawn had a natural willingness to help other people, his family said, a selflessness that carried him into the Army.

He also was an avid outdoorsman -- a camper, fisherman and hunter. He liked snowboarding and card tricks.

"All-American boy," is how his sister, Erin, describes him. "He wanted to experience and try everything he could, and (he was) probably one of the most down-to-earth people you would ever meet."

When he first enlisted in his hometown of Covington, Va., in 2001, Shawn called his stepmother to tell her the news.

Although she didn't give birth to Shawn, she said she loved him as her own and was concerned when he told her about joining the Army.

But there was a determination in his voice, she said, something that indicated his commitment to his choice.

Despite her fears, Jan Dunkin was proud of him.

When Shawn was choosing which military path to take, his father wanted him to follow his steps into aviation. His stepmother wanted him to have a desk job.

But Shawn chose a different route. He served in tanks, but didn't like that. So he decided to become a scout. He wanted to be out in front, searching for the enemy.

"As he matured, it became a mission for him," Jan Dunkin said of Shawn's military career. "It was his life."

Shawn had a life outside the military, too. Before his first tour in Iraq, he met a woman named Ashley when he was stationed at Fort Hood in Texas. When he returned from that tour, they married. They had planned to start a family.

Now those who love Shawn are having to cope with the fact that he won't be coming home. The family doesn't want to talk about politics. They miss their son, a grief tempered with immense pride for his sacrifice.

"He believed in what he was doing," Jan said. "He did this for us and our everyday freedoms. ... He gave his life for that."

Jan tried to sums up Shawn's life in the simplest, most accurate way she could:

"He was just a hero."

From the Herald

Related Link:
Shawn M. Dunkin dies of injuries from I.E.D.