Sunday, July 01, 2007

Jason Nathan laid to rest

Airman Jason Nathan was remembered as a devout Christian, a patriot and a hero Saturday as friends and family gathered at the Wilson Convention Center to pay tribute to the Central High School graduate killed in Iraq on June 23.

Before the service, about 70 Patriot Guard Riders lined the walkway leading to the building, each dressed in their riding gear and holding a full-sized American flag.

"Being out here to honor his service is the least we can do," said Georgia Ride Captain Todd Walker. "He was an all-American kid who gave his life for his country."

Pastor Derrick Dumas of Lizzieboro Baptist Church prayed while mourners filed in two by two into a ballroom, briefly stopping at Nathan's flag-draped casket before taking their seats.

At least a hundred airmen sat together on one side of the room.

As a part of the service, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Robert Henson presented four medals to the Nathan family, including the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Combat Action Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

He described Nathan's Air Force career that started in 2005 when he enlisted, completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and was stationed at the Royal Air Force base at Lakenheath, England.

Upon his arrival at Lakenheath, Nathan, 22, was immediately recognized as a professional, said Henson, Security Forces manager for the 48th Security Forces Squadron at Lakenheath.

He said Nathan, nicknamed "Nate," excelled in his training and ultimately was assigned to teaching others.

After being enlisted for only a year and a half, Henson said Nathan was promoted early to the rank of senior airman first class.

But he never received news of his promotion.

After a brief assignment to Fort Lewis, Wash., for training, Nathan was attached to the 732nd Expeditionary Group, 332nd Air Expedition in Iraq in February. His mission was to train and protect Iraqi police officers in Tikrit.

"His days were long and hot and his missions were dangerous," Henson said. "Nate was a warrior, a patriot and a great airman."

While on his 34th combat patrol, Henson said Nathan was assigned to man a gun turret on the third vehicle in a four vehicle convoy.

At some point, a roadside bomb exploded on the passenger side of the second vehicle and Nathan was fatally injured, Henson said.

Although a medical evacuation helicopter arrived within minutes of the attack, Nathan did not survive.

After hearing that Nathan had died, Henson said he wanted to see his room, to see how he lived.

"His things were neat and orderly and a cross was in prominent display in his locker," Henson said.

Feeling led to open a dresser drawer, Henson said he came upon a book with a handwritten inscription, "If God is for me who can be against me."

Nathan's father, Joe Anthony Nathan Sr., described his son as his best friend and as a hero.

Knowing his son was a man of faith, Nathan said he was hurt when he heard of his death, but was at peace.

"God doesn't make mistakes," Nathan said.

"Jason was a sacrificial lamb," he said, adding he died so others might live. "Jason died, but he's not dead. He's got eternal life."

From the Macon Telegraph

Related Link:
Jason D. Nathan dies 'of wounds suffered when an IED detonated near his vehicle while on patrol'