Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Shawn G. Adams dies 'of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device'

DIXON - As soon as Robert and Laura Gillis opened their front door Sunday and saw an Army master sergeant and chaplain standing on the porch, they knew their son, Army Ranger Sgt. Shawn G. Adams, was dead.

“This is our boy, this is our son. He's the eldest,” said Robert Gillis, Adams' stepfather, on Tuesday morning. “But he chose to be in the military. They didn't choose him.”

Adams, 21, became a casualty of the war in Iraq on Sunday when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle in Owaset. It was the same day he would have celebrated his one-year anniversary with his wife, Beth.

Robert and Laura Gillis, Adams' wife and two of his three sisters stood on that same porch shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday and faced a flock of reporters and photographers, mustering the strength to talk about the lost soldier.

“We're very proud of Shawn,” Robert Gillis said as he held a football and an Army picture of his stepson. “He had tenacity, set goals and was dedicated to his family. He was a great son and a great husband.”

Laura Gillis, wearing dark sunglasses to hide her anguished eyes, spoke as tears rolled down her face.

“I will miss him coming home. His smile ... he always hugged me and said, ‘I love you,' ” she said.

For family members such as Lori Gillis, Adams' aunt, the news was surreal. But for others, such as Joshua Gillis, Adams' 18-year-old cousin, his mind was flooded with memories.

“I remember talking to him just a month ago. He seemed uncomfortable during the conversation and refused to discuss his feelings of the Iraqi war,” said Joshua Gillis, who expected to see his cousin in three months. “You always hear about another soldier dying, but you never expect it's someone you know.”

To Adams' family and friends in Dixon and Vacaville, he was a loyal and quiet man, devoted to those he loved and determined to finish whatever ventures he began.

Adams believed in the military and in fighting for freedom. Robert Gillis said his stepson went into the military with his eyes wide open and never once doubted his decision to join the Army.

“Shawn said to me, ‘If not me, Pops, then who?' He loved this country,” Robert Gillis recalled. Adams was 6 years old when Robert Gillis became his stepfather.

Adams' resolution to tackle obstacles began at Vanden High School, where he was a linebacker for the varsity football team despite weighing just 150 pounds.

“When he decided to go into the Army, I'm sure he wanted to be a Ranger because it was the toughest route and he wanted to do his best,” said Rich Woods, who was Vanden's football coach when Adams played for the Vikings in 2003. “He wasn't a big guy, but yet he played linebacker. He was just that way. There was never anything he wouldn't do.”

Adams joined the Army just two months after graduating from Vanden in 2004. By age 19, he was enrolled in the Army Ranger school. Within 2 1/2 years, he became a sergeant.

Before being deployed to Iraq, Adams was stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, where he met his future wife.

“She was the love of his life. He never brought a girl home except for her,” Robert Gillis said of Beth. The couple dated for four months before marrying last year. They had no children.

Gillis said Adams was following in the steps of his best friend when he enlisted. That friend, Joseph Medeiros Jr. of Dixon, was killed last New Year's Eve in a traffic crash in Fort Hood, Texas, Gillis said, the same night Adams was injured in Iraq by an explosive that left shrapnel in his leg.

But Adams, who was deployed to Iraq last September and was scheduled to come home this December, recovered quickly and kept fighting, Gillis said.

“He believed in what he was doing - he believed in fulfilling his commitment,” he said, adding that the soldier's family did not know exactly what Adams was doing when he was killed Sunday. “He would go on missions, he wouldn't tell us what he was doing. But he was basically a door-kicker, looking for insurgents.”

Adams is survived by his wife, of Anchorage; his stepfather and mother, Laura Gillis, of Dixon; his father, Darcy Adams, and stepmother, Gay Adams, of Vacaville; and three sisters, Lacy, 15, and Samantha, 12, of Dixon, and Mary, 7, of Vacaville.

The Dixon City Council dedicated Tuesday's meeting in Adams' name. Flags in the city will fly at half-staff until noon July 31.

Robert Gillis said Adams' body is en route to California. Services have not yet been set.

“I didn't know you could feel this helpless or hurt,” Robert Gillis said. “We're devastated.”

From the Davis Enterprise