Sunday, August 12, 2007

Jacob Thompson remembered by family

They don’t know the details about how Army Staff Sgt. Jacob Thompson died during a mission in Iraq, but his parents do know their son was well aware of the dangers he faced every day as a forward soldier.

Three tattoos on Thompson’s left leg made that clear, said his father, Charlie Thompson, during a news conference Wednesday. He got the tattoos after his first tour in Iraq. They were three helmets, each with the name of a friend who had been killed during the war.

What the Thompsons do know is their 26-year-old son was searching a house in Baqubah when something exploded, killing him and possibly others. He was the 62nd person with Minnesota ties to die in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Charlie Thompson was told about his son’s death while he and his wife, Barb, were visiting friends in Green Bay, Wis. Prior to leaving on a series of missions in Baqubah, Jacob had told his superiors, if anything happened to him, his parents would be traveling. So a woman called Charlie Thompson on his cellular telephone.

First she asked if Barb was with him. Then she asked if he was driving. After he said, “No,” to the second question, the woman asked if he was with friends.

When he answered yes, the woman said she was sorry to inform him his son had been killed in action.

“My first reaction was this is a sick joke,” Charlie Thompson said. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“I’m not sure that was any worse than if they had come to the door,” Barb Thompson added.

She also talked about a series of e-mails her son had been sending home during his second tour in Iraq. There were many more of them and they were far more descriptive than the e-mails he sent during his first tour from November 2004 through October 2005. Barb Thompson saved them all and said she had been planning on turning them into a book for her son.

William Geddes, a civilian public affairs officer with the 88th Regional Readiness Command at Fort Snelling, also attended the news conference. He set some guidelines for the event but said he could not confirm Jacob Thompson’s death because that information had to be released by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Thompsons and their two older sons, Jon and Jason, also shared happy memories about Jacob.

Jon, 40, and Jason, 38, were teenagers when their brother was still an infant, so they were asked to baby-sit a lot. Charlie Thompson laughed out loud as he described how his older sons had hanged Jacob up on a macramé hook by his overalls.

“That was their method of baby-sitting,” he said.

Then Barb quickly added, “They used to hire the neighbor girl to change his diapers.”

Jacob was also a generous person who strongly believed in his mission in Iraq. When his parents brought up their doubts about the war in Iraq after his first tour, Jacob responded by saying they never heard about the good things that were happening there.

He talked about grateful merchants at shops were he did business, children who loved to play games with soldiers and women who were able to own businesses and wear the clothes they wanted to wear, Charlie Thompson said.

Barb Thompson also talked about the things her son did for fellow soldiers. She used a Purple Heart he had earned when he was wounded during his first tour as an example. Jacob gave the medal to a friend who had received more serious injuries but hadn’t been chosen for the award.

“We have the paperwork, but we don’t have the pin,” she said.

When asked if Jacob ever worried about being in Iraq, Charlie and Barb both said he never did. He knew he had a dangerous job, but he was confident his unit was prepared for anything.

But he also knew bad things can happen in a war zone, Charlie Thompson added. Then he described one of the last conversations he had with his son.

“He said, ‘I really love you guys,” Charlie Thompson said. “It was almost like he was saying, ‘This might be the last time. I just want you to know I really love you guys.’”

From the Mankato Free Press

Related Link:
Jacob Thompson reported killed in Iraq