Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Army Pfc. Jeffrey P. Shaffer

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Jeffrey P. Shaffer, 21, of Harrison, Ark.

Pfc. Shaffer was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Bamberg, Germany; died Sept. 13 of injuries sustained in Ramadi, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle during combat operations.

By Tim Woods
Tribune-Herald staff writer

Lisa Adams cried as she talked about the death of her son, Army Pfc. Jeffrey Shaffer, killed in action in Iraq on Wednesday when a Hummer he was riding in passed over a roadside bomb.

She laughed heartily as she recalled her son’s fun-loving, prankster ways. Then she flashed a sheepish smile as she pondered what he would think of her reaction.

“He just loved life,” Lisa said. “I know he’d be mad at me for being so upset, but he’s my baby and I can’t help but be upset. But, above all, he’d be upset if he thought that people thought he died in vain. He didn’t.”

Lisa and her husband, Mark Adams, were told of their son’s death Wednesday afternoon. On Friday, the Waco couple spent the day doing what no parent should be burdened with.

“We had to plan our son’s funeral today,” Lisa said, “and you just shouldn’t have to do that for your child.”

Despite their grief, the couple willingly spoke of Jeff’s life, his goals, his good times and bad. Most of all, they spoke about the characteristics that made their son so special to his family and everybody he came in contact with.

“He was humble and shy,” Lisa said. “He didn’t want attention on him, unless he was goofing off.”

“He was pulling pranks and goofing all the time,” Mark recalled with a pained smile. “He had a really sweet, warm face and smile. He tried to act tough, but he had a really sweet heart.”

Jeff Shaffer, 21, who attended West High School, surprised his mother with a phone call in February 2005, when he asked her to dig up his birth certificate and fax it to him.

“What number should I fax it to?” Lisa remembered asking her son. “Then he said, ‘Staff Sergeant. . . . ’ and I said, ‘What have you done? Have you signed any papers yet?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’ I asked him if it was anything he could take back and he said, ‘No.’ He wouldn’t have done it anyway.”

That was the day Jeff enlisted in the Army. Mark said that Jeff had been looking forward to that day since Sept. 11, 2001, when Jeff decided he was going to do everything he could to help prevent another attack on the United States. He went to Iraq about a year ago as an infantryman, part of the famed 1st Armored Division.

Lisa said her son told her he planned to stay in the Army for about 20 years “and then he’d still be young enough to open his own business.” A talented artist, Jeff had his eye on starting up his own computer games graphics company.

But while serving in the Army, Jeff made the most of his time, dedicating himself to his duties while maintaining his concern for others.

“He had a sergeant who lost his leg and he said, ‘Momma, he’ll never run with his kids again,’ ” Lisa said. “I said, ‘But at least he’ll be able to see them graduate,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, but he’ll never get to run with his kids again.’ That’s just how he was, always thinking of other people.”

Although Jeff knew the pain that war can bring — Mark and Lisa say his best friend, Brett Tribble, of Lake Jackson, Texas, was killed in action just four days before his own death — he still enjoyed joking with fellow servicemen and sharing his Big Red soda, a prized possession, with other Texans longing for a taste of home.

He also stayed true to those he loved back in Texas, making a surprise visit home in January for Lisa’s birthday. The secret visit was leaked before his arrival, Mark said, but it didn’t diminish its impact.

It was during that visit that Jeff’s playful spirit emerged again. Mark said that he and Jeff were playing a round of golf at James Connally Municipal Golf Course “and we were playing so bad, he just stripped down to his shorts and jumped in the water and started grabbing golf balls. . . . When we were done, he said, ‘I’ve never had more fun playing golf.’ ”

Jeff Shaffer also grasped the realities of war. Lisa said that in one of the last e-mails she received from her son, he wrote: “Momma, don’t be upset if anything happens to me because it’ll be God’s will.”

But even that grim mental preparedness didn’t stop Jeff from putting his family’s well-being first.

“He had it in his papers that if anything were to happen to him, to make sure that his dad was there and, ‘Do not tell my momma by herself.’ He was looking out for his momma,” Lisa said.

The grief-stricken parents struggled to find words to sum up their son’s legacy.

“By his example, he showed everybody that if you’re going to really live life, at least have fun, regardless of your situation,” Lisa said.

“And then take care of business,” Mark added.

They said that Jeff, who leaves behind two younger brothers, ages 14 and 6, and a 2-year-old daughter in Arkansas, was pained by protesters at home, including peace activist Cindy Sheehan and her questioning of what “noble cause” U.S. military personnel are fighting for in Iraq.

Mark said Jeff told him “when people protest a war, they’re disgracing the memory of those who have fallen for them.”

Jeff’s parents say they’re convinced that their son died for a noble cause.

“As bad as it hurts and as much pain as we’re going through and even knowing that I’ll never hold my baby again, he didn’t die in vain,” Lisa said tearfully.

Army Pfc. Jeffrey P. Shaffer was killed in action on 09/13/06.

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