Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cameron K. Payne dies 'of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device that detonated near his vehicle during combat operations'

When Cameron Payne enlisted in the Army, it was not necessarily to fulfill a lifelong dream but out of a sense of duty toward his growing family.

"He did not join the Army to be G.I. Joe, he did not join the Army to be anyone's hero," said his mother, Denise Jackson. "The reason he joined the Army was to support his family."

Payne, a private first class, was killed Monday in Iraq when a vehicle he was traveling in struck an improvised explosive device during combat operations in Baghdad, the Defense Department said Wednesday.

Payne, 22, was the proud father of an 18-month-old daughter and a 4-week-old girl. Just last month, Payne witnessed the birth of his daughter Kylee in Corona while home on leave.

His wife, Julie, 22, recalled her husband as a family man. She said their elder daughter, Annaleese, bears a striking resemblance to her father.

"They look like twins," she said. "She's got his personality, his humor."

Payne met his future wife, who described him as "the funniest guy anyone could meet," while the two were students at Buena Vista High School.

"He was actually my secret admirer in high school," she said. The couple married in October 2005 after a courtship that included trips to amusement parks and surprise flower deliveries.

Jackson, Payne's mother, said that "falling in love" made her son more responsible and goal-oriented.

One of his first goals was to join the Army to support his family. The transformation became apparent after basic training, his mother said.

"After he went through his course he was a totally different person," she said. "He had goals and he knew what he wanted."

Payne enlisted in the Army in 2005 and began basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., that November, said Army spokeswoman Alison Kohler.

In March 2006, Payne went to Fort Riley, Kan., where he spent the rest of the year preparing for deployment to Iraq.

Payne and his unit arrived in Iraq in February, Kohler said.

Many corrections officers at the California Rehabilitation Center, the medium-security prison in Norco where Payne's mother works, have known Payne since he was a child, and news of his death hit many prison staffers hard, said Lt. Mike Brownell, prison spokesman.

"Folks are pretty upset, but we've banded together to offer her our support," he said.

Payne's death has been especially difficult for his younger brother, Cody Gowens, their mother said.

Whether it was camping trips or visits to the beach, "we did everything together, that's how we rolled, we rolled the three of us," she said. Payne's father died when he was a boy, and the siblings were raised by their mom.

Payne's mother said she tried to steer her son toward a career in law enforcement or corrections, but he found certain aspects of the Army more attractive.

For instance, when he re-enlisted in May, he was told he could eventually relocate to any base he chose. Payne had his sights set on the Seattle area, his mother said. He thought the Pacific Northwest offered a more "pure and clean" environment for his family than the Inland Empire, she said.

From the Press Enterprise