Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jonathan W. Edds of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his vehicle using an improvised explosive device and small arms fire'

John Edds was one of the best and brightest of White Pigeon.

Edds, who graduated near the top of his class at White Pigeon High School in 2001, was one of three brothers who went to the U.S. Military Academy. He headed to Iraq six months ago.

On Friday, he was killed in Baghdad by a homemade bomb. He was 24.

News of the death has shaken White Pigeon.

Edd's father, Barry, is well-known as pastor of White Pigeon Church of Christ, and Jon and his brothers, Joel Edds, 25, and Josh Edds, 22, were star students at White Pigeon High School before going on to West Point.

John also is survived by his mother, Julia, and his wife, Laura, who lives in Fort Benning, Ga.

``Just an outstanding family,'' said Pat West, principal of White Pigeon High School. ``The boys' accomplishments speak volumes about Barry and Julia and the boys themselves -- their work ethic and determination. All the right stuff, this family has it. It's a great loss.''

West and Joel said John was ``involved in everything'' at White Pigeon High School. He excelled in the classroom and was a solid performer on the school's cross country and basketball teams.

``He was good at everything,'' West said. ``But from my perspective, John's outstanding characteristic was his kindness towards others. He was just a friend to all students.''

Joel agreed. ``We were laughing yesterday that so many people were telling the newspeople that they were John's best friend,'' Joel said. ``But that's the way Jon treated people. If you were his friend, you felt like his best friend.''

Joel and John were only a year apart in age, and Joel said it was Jhon who first came up with the idea of going to West Point. Joel entered in 2000, and John followed a year later, starting two weeks before the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Josh, the youngest brother, is starting his senior year at the academy.

John also fell in love after a West Point instructor introduced Jon to a visiting niece. Jon and Laura Epps married two years ago.

Joel, who has just returned from a 16-month tour in Afghanistan, said virtually all West Point graduates deploy to the Mideast after receiving specialized training, and John went to the Mideast last winter along with most of West Point's Class of 2005.

John was recently picked to be a scout platoon leader -- a difficult but prestigious job in which an officer leads about 40 soldiers on reconnaissance missions, Joel said.

``If you're picked to be a scout platoon leader, it's your chain of command telling you that you're doing a great job,'' he said.

John was in his first week in his new position when he was killed.

``John loved what he did,'' Joel said. ``Jon loved his solders. He loved his country, and he believed in the mission.''

Joel said this morning that his family was holding up well. ``We're getting a lot of support from family and the community, and that helps a lot,'' he said.

He said the family also is bolstered by their faith in God and country.

``That faith doesn't get any stronger than this family,'' Joel said.

``I've lost friends and I've lost soldiers in this war. ... When I look at the American flag, I don't see red, white and blue. I see faces. Now I see my brother's face there, and I'll see it every time I look at a flag.''

From the Kalamazoo Gazette