Saturday, January 20, 2007

Army Specialist Jeffrey D. Bisson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Jeffrey D. Bisson, 22, of Vista, Calif.

Spc. Bisson was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska; died Jan. 20 in Karma, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee.

Soldier on patrol in Iraq killed by bomb
By Steve Liewer
January 25, 2007

An odd sensation settled over Rebecca Bisson last Saturday as she sat awake and alone in her military apartment.

She'd been married for only six months to Army Spc. Jeffrey Bisson of Vista before he left their base in Alaska for a yearlong tour in Iraq. His unit – the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division – had suffered since arriving in the Fallujah area, losing more than 20 soldiers.

In an instant, Rebecca sensed that everything had changed.

“I felt a hug and a kiss on my cheek,” she said. “Right then, I knew my husband was gone.”

Later that day, two Army officers knocked on her door to tell her the news she already knew: Jeffrey Bisson, 22, died Saturday from injuries caused by a roadside bomb that exploded near his Humvee.

His death left her a 19-year-old widow.

Yesterday, Rebecca arrived at the Vista home of Jeffrey's parents, Rick and Laurie Bisson, to plan her husband's funeral. On a coffee table, the parents had spread photos of their smiling, round-faced son in happier times: Jeff as a Boy Scout, Jeff in his Army dress uniform, Jeff mugging, cheek-to-cheek, with his wife.

The Bisson family lived in Carlsbad when Jeff was born and moved to Vista eight years ago. Rick Bisson said his son bowled and played baseball, football and soccer, but that Boy Scouting became his passion. Jeff had earned the rank of Eagle Scout by the time he graduated from Rancho Buena Vista High School in 2003 with a 3.8 grade point average.

Scouting led Jeff to edgy outdoor pursuits such as rock-climbing and, eventually, the sport that captured his fancy: skydiving. He loved nothing more than falling out of the sky.

Rick Bisson still remembers his son's first jump.

“(Jeff) had the biggest grin on his face. He was just floating,” he said.

Before Jeff died, he had completed about 300 jumps – 200 of them for sport. He acknowledged his recklessness in the self-profile he posted on in 2004.

“Some people say I am a little on the crazy side when it comes to the stuff I do for fun,” he wrote. “But hey, I like to live my life on the edge a little. So you can say I am a very big thrill seeker.”

Jeff's yen for travel and his love of skydiving drew him toward the Army, the service in which both his grandfathers had served. His parents tried to steer him in a different direction, but he was determined. He shed 100 pounds from his 275-pound frame so the Army would take him.

“I really didn't want him to go. I said, 'Stay here!' ” Laurie Bisson said. “This is what he wanted to do, so I honored his wishes.”

Jeff qualified as an airborne paratrooper, and the Army sent him to Fort Richardson in Alaska. Rebecca, an Anchorage native, discovered his MySpace profile and finally mustered the courage to meet him in August 2005. They hit it off instantly.

“He seemed like a fun-loving guy I could talk to and care about,” Rebecca said. “We've been pretty much inseparable ever since.”

Ignoring the advice of their families, Jeff and Rebecca married last April on a snow-swept mountaintop overlooking Anchorage. In September, they visited Vista so Jeff could say goodbye to his friends and family before he left for Iraq.

At first, his unit camped in a relatively calm zone south of Baghdad. By December, Jeff had moved to an insurgent-infested area near Fallujah. He suffered several close calls. One day, for example, a bomb killed a soldier who had taken his place on a mission.

“He was very, very scared,” Rebecca said, “but he believed in the cause. He said, 'I may not come home, but I believe in what I'm doing.' ”

Jeff died when a bomb went off while he was riding on a patrol. Three other soldiers died with him: Sgt. Sean P. Fennerty, 25, of Corvallis, Ore., a San Diego native; Sgt. Phillip D. McNeill, 22, of Sunrise, Fla.; and Spc. Toby R. Olsen, 28, of Manchester, N.H. A fifth man was injured, Rebecca said.

Jeff's parents said his body is now in Dover, Del., and will be shipped to Vista later this week. They haven't decided on funeral plans.

Besides his parents and his wife, Jeff is survived by an 18-year-old brother, Christopher, and a 4-year-old son, Andrew, of Oceanside, from a previous relationship.

His grandmother, Janice Tice of Vista, cried at the idea of burying a grandson.

“You try to protect them when they're little. They go to school, you worry about them. They learn to drive, you worry about them,” she said. “But we couldn't protect him from the war.”

Army Specialist Jeffrey D. Bisson was killed in action on 1/20/07.

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