Saturday, July 23, 2005

Army Sgt. Jason T. Palmerton

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jason T. Palmerton, 25, of Auburn, Nebraska.

Sgt Palmerton died in Qal'eh-Yegaz, Afghanistan, when he came under enemy small arms fire while conducting a dismounted patrol. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Palmerton enlisted in July 2002. He was a Green Beret Special Forces communication sergeant who was shot and killed July 23 while on patrol in Afghanistan. He's a native of Hamburg, Iowa. He leaves behind a fiancee. He was a 1998 graduate of Auburn High School and lived in Lincoln and took classes at the University of Nebraska and Southeast Community College before enlisting.

Palmerton's mother said her son was apparently getting out of his Hum Vee when he was shot. He’d been in Afghanistan just a few weeks.

Residents of Auburn are stunned. A rain-soaked flag hung outside the Palmerton home in rural Auburn Tuesday.

"He wanted a purpose and the Army gave him a purpose," said sister Amanda Palmerton. "He felt like he wasn't doing enough with his life."

Amanda Palmerton and her fiancé were planning a move to North Carolina. She said she talked to her brother about it the day before he was killed.

"He's not just my brother, but also my friend and this has been the worst thing that has ever happened to me," Palmerton said

Two members of Jason Palmerton's division spoke at Saturday's service, as well as U.S. Army Specialist Geoffrey Moore, who had known Jason since both began military careers three years ago.

All said Jason had been more than a friend; he was a brother.

"You'd talk to him for 10 minutes and you knew you were going to be his friend," Moore said.

And no matter how tough work might be, Jason could always make his fellow soldiers laugh.

"You'd always look over and see Jason smiling, loving what he was doing," Moore said.

When Jason's sister, Amanda Palmerton, came to the pulpit, she said she loved hearing the soldiers call Jason their brother.

"Because too many biological siblings don't get along," she said. "You always hear that."

Jason and Amanda had experienced their own moments growing up.

"Jason knocked out my two front teeth when we were kids, and I gave him more wedgies than I can count," Amanda said.

Jason bore a scar on his chin from when Amanda convinced him to sit on her bicycle handlebars as she rode downhill.

Still, the pair exited childhood with a great relationship.

"I was lucky to have him not just as a brother but as a friend," Amanda said.

TAPS played twice from the back of the church when the service ended. People throughout the congregation could be heard crying.

Later, friends and family gathered in the church basement, sharing memories of Jason over lunch.

Marvel Fisher, the fiance of Jason's aunt, Diana Ebirim, had met him only once, over beers, just before he left for training in Fort Bragg, N.C. It was a good time —just drinking beers, laughing and joking.

Diana remembers it differently.

She hadn't seen Jason for a year, and now he was almost done with training. Something about him—his presence—had evolved.

"I was sitting there going, ‘My nephew's a man now,'" Diana said. "‘He's grown into a man.'"

U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Kurt Dock, who recruited Jason, talked to Jason's father, Steve, during the luncheon.

"He's made an impression on me in two months like some people I've known 15 years haven't done," he told Steve. "He's about as successful as you can get."

Jason is Kurt's only enlistee who has been killed.

"It's kind of hard to swallow," he said.

Steve said he was in awe during the service when he heard Jason's fellow soldiers speak about him.

"Although I knew my son was in the berets and was part of the Army, I never knew they had so much love for each other and respect," he said. "I'm grateful my son had boys like that for his friends and comrades."

He said his heart and prayers and thoughts go out to all the other fathers who had ever done this —said goodbye to their sons like he had to say goodbye to Jason.

"He has made me the proudest man, at least for today," Steve said. "And probably forever."

Army Sgt Jason T. Palmerton was killed in action on 07/23/05.

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