Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jessy G. Pollard dies 'of injuries suffered when his helicopter crashed'

A 2003 graduate of Glendale High School was among 14 U.S. troops killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash Wednesday in northern Iraq.

Family members confirmed that Springfield native Jessy Pollard, 21, died in the crash.

"He was fighting for our American freedoms that we enjoy," said Alan Dewitt, Pollard's stepfather in Ozark. "After high school, he really got into wanting to do that. He prayed about it a lot before he joined."

Dewitt said his stepson was an Army Ranger aboard the UH-60 Black Hawk, one of two helicopters flying a nighttime mission.

Military officials said initial indications showed the helicopter experienced a mechanical problem and was not brought down by hostile fire. The cause of the crash was still under investigation.

Pollard's aunt, Sandy Kaufman of Springfield, recalled her nephew as "a very tall, good-looking young man" who was eager to pursue a career in the military.

"He was a paratrooper who jumped out of planes and stuff," she recalled. "He said it was an adrenaline rush."

Kaufman said Pollard didn't know what direction his life should take until he joined the military.

"He just really embraced it," she said. "He'd come home and regale us with stories about jumping out of planes at night."

In July, Pollard returned to Ozark for a two-week visit before heading back to Iraq.

"We hadn't seen him in six months, so it was good to have him back," Dewitt said. "He was doing what he wanted to do."

Pollard is survived by his mother, Patti Jo "Pj" Dewitt and sister Whitney Pollard, 19, among others.

Pollard played football and basketball at Glendale.

Amanda Orchard, who played softball with Pollard's sister at Glendale, remembered Pollard "as a real outgoing, fun guy."

"I had classes with him; we talked," she said. "He was a big, tall guy, real athletic."

Orchard said she was proud that a Glendale graduate chose to serve in the military.

"I think that's awesome, if that's what they have the heart to do," she said.

Lesley Noe, who graduated with Pollard, remembered his desire to do more than was asked.

"We both really liked 'Romeo and Juliet,' and in one of our classes, we had to memorize 15 lines," she said. "We decided to memorize 150 lines. He was really hard-working and always wanted to go above and beyond what you had to do."

Glendale Principal Gary Prouty said the high school will have a moment of silence today — the first day of classes — to honor Pollard's memory.

J.J. Bullington, a middle school principal in Carruthersville, said she has known Bell since he was a child.

"I taught him swimming," she said. "This is a real small community of about 7,000. Everybody knows each other."

Bullington said Bell's family asked her to convey to the media that they "need space" and were not taking phone calls.

From the Springfield News Leader