Thursday, April 26, 2007

Jeffrey A. Avery dies 'from wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated during checkpoint operations'

Jeffrey Avery wore cowboy hats and big belt buckles and spent his youthful summers riding bulls.

He also had a strong sense of justice and from an early age wanted to be a police officer, friends and family said Wednesday.

Avery, 19, had begun his law enforcement career as a military policeman when he died Monday after an explosion at a security checkpoint in Iraq. He was serving his first tour and had been working since December in Muqudadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

While Avery focused on serious pursuits, he was also a jokester, always ready with a smart-aleck remark. He loved camping, hunting, bull riding and country music. A favorite song was “Don’t Take the Girl,” by Tim McGraw.

Avery was born at Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base in California, said his mom, JoAnn Sanchez. His family moved to Germany soon after his first birthday. Four years later, the family moved to Colorado Springs.

In seventh grade at West Middle School, Avery met a boy on the school bus who lived near him. He and Chris Parson became best friends. The two spent summers together trying cowboy pursuits, including bull riding at an arena near Calhan, Parson said.

“He was scared at first, and then afterwards, I can always remember, he just jumped off and said ‘Let’s do it again,’” Parson said.

Even before he graduated from Coronado High School in 2005, Avery was taking criminal-justice classes at Pikes Peak Community College. His military service was to be a jump-start to a law enforcement career.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks contributed to his decision to join the Army.

His family and Parson’s were living in the same apartment complex when the planes struck in New York City and Washington, D.C., said Parson’s mom, Angel Madonna.

“We were back and forth watching the news together, and he took it pretty hard,” Madonna said. “I think that directly affected his decision to go into the military to fight for our country.”

Avery’s experience in Iraq reinforced his belief in the U.S. mission there, said Doug Trembly, Avery’s mother’s fiancé. The family has a tradition of military service, with his mom in the Navy Reserve, and his brother and dad in the Marine Corps.

“He grew up with that lifestyle, and that’s the lifestyle he loved,” Trembly said. “He believed in the cause of being over there.”

From the Colorado Springs Gazette