Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jason L. Paton dies 'of injuries suffered when his helicopter crashed'

A local soldier who was due to come home in October and get married in November is among 14 troops killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Jason Paton, 25, of Poway died last Wednesday. The UH60 Blackhawk in which he was flying was lost due to mechanical problems, according the military. There were no survivors in the accident.

His family said he had an incredible zeal for life. He loved the outdoors, including camping, surfing, and off-roading. And his bravery extended well beyond his three tours of duty with the Army. His stepfather recalled how he proposed to his fiancée last March. She was a softball player at UCSD.

"Jason proposed to her over the PA system," said his stepfather, Jim Valenzuela.

Paton last spoke to his mother by phone on Monday. He talked about his excitement about coming home to see everyone and to get married in November.

"His mother read about the accident on the Internet Wednesday morning," said Valenzuela. "She said she had a horrible feeling."

Paton was a 2000 graduate of Poway High School. His family said after his scheduled homecoming, he had planned to resume his military career as a training officer with the Army Rangers. He served three separate tours: one in Afghanistan and two in Iraq.

Outside of the family home in Poway, a makeshift memorial has been set up with pictures of Paton and handwritten messages.

From NBC 7/39