Thursday, November 17, 2005

Army Sgt. 1st Class James S. Ochsner

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class James S. Ochsner, 36, of Waukegan, Illinois.

Sgt Ochsner died in Orgun-E, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during a supply distribution mission. He was assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Sgt. 1st Class James Scott Ochsner, a native of Waukegan, was scheduled to arrive home next week from his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan. But the 18-year veteran of the U.S. Army was killed Tuesday in a roadside bomb attack.

Sgt. Ochsner, 36, who served with the Army's 3rd Special Forces Group, died of head injuries after a bomb exploded near his armored vehicle, which had been traveling as part of a troop patrol in Paktika province near the Pakistani border.

"He was going out to distribute some goods to the local people," said Ochsner's father, Bob Ochsner of Beach Park.

The elder Ochsner and his wife, Sandy, were notified of their son's death late Tuesday afternoon.

"He loved the Afghan people; he really enjoyed them," Bob Ochsner said of his son.

Sgt. Ochsner believed it was his duty to serve in the armed forces, Bob Ochsner said.

Military service is an Ochsner family tradition.

Bob Ochsner served in Army Special Forces in the Vietnam War, earning the rank of captain. Sandy Ochsner is also an Army veteran. A surviving son, Robert L. Ochsner II, 38, is a 20-year Army veteran currently stationed at Fort Knox, Ky.

Sgt. Ochsner's wife is also in the Army, and when the couple were sent to Iraq, the elder Ochsners parented their two grandchildren until their son and daughter-in-law returned two years and two months later.

"He was a soldier through and through," said his wife, Ann. "There was never any doubt in his mind he would be a soldier."

Ann Ochsner said she last heard from her husband Monday via e-mail. "It was the typical stuff — what you've done, the kids," she said.

James S. Ochsner attended Clark Elementary and Andrew Cook Magnet schools in Waukegan before enrolling at St. Joseph High School in Kenosha. He was athletic, excelling in wrestling and football.

"He was devil-may-care, 'the jokester,' a great kid," Bob Ochsner said. "Both my sons were gifted children. Jim had a gifted IQ, but he had a hard time getting C's and B's in school. But in Special Forces in language school, he was first in his class in Arabic."

Sgt. Ochsner was first deployed to the Gulf during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 as an Army specialist.

Members of 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, were first sent to train several battalions of the New Afghan National Army at the Afghan Military Academy in Kabul in May 2002.

An intelligence specialist, Sgt. Ochsner served revolving six-month stints in the region.

His most recent tour began last June. He was scheduled to return early next week to become an instructor at the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg.

Bob Ochsner said his son was struck by the simplicity of the Afghan people.

"The best thing you could do for them was dig a well," Ochsner said. "We helped them build schools but there was resistance to that. The elder men said they hadn't gone to school."

In addition to his parents, Sgt. Ochsner is survived by his wife and two children, Nick, 16, and Megan, 14, in Fort Bragg, N.C.; his brother Robert; and his sister, Jennifer.

Ochsner, who left in June and was expected to come home in January, had two Bronze Stars, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Army Commendation Medal for valor. He was assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg. He is one of 203 soldiers who have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom in and around Afghanistan as of Nov. 16, with about 87 of those deaths occurring this year.

Army Sgt. 1st Class James S. Ochsner was killed in action on 11/17/05.

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