Friday, February 02, 2007

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason G. Defrenn

Remember Our Heroes

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason G. Defrenn, 34, of Barnwell, S.C.

CWO Defrenn was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Feb. 2 in Taji, Iraq of wounds sustained when his Apache helicopter was forced to land during combat operations. Also killed was Chief Warrant Officer Keith Yoakum.

Barnwell native killed in Iraq

(Barnwell) February 6, 2007 - An Army soldier from Barnwell was killed in a helicopter shoot-down in Iraq.

The family of Army Warrant Officer Jason Garth DeFrenn says he was killed on Friday and family members were informed by the Defense Department over the weekend.

Defrenn's father Garth DeFrenn says the 34-year-old soldier was a member of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 227th Aviation Regiment, of Fort Hood, Texas.

"I was just selfish. I just didn't want to lose my son," says Garth Defrenn. Defrenn says from the day his son Jason told him he wanted to fly Apache helicopters, he knew in his heart this day would come.

The family says he was due to be home in a week or so. His Apache helicopter was shot down while flying in formation north of Taji, Iraq.

But Defrenn says that wasn't before his son and a co-pilot did something heroic. Jason's dad says they placed their helicopter in the line of fire, diverting another helicopter from being shot down, "You can say he was admired and loved, but the most important thing he ever did was to lay his life down for someone else."

But that is only part of the story. Army warrant officer Defrenn was just days away from returning home to Barnwell and the love of his life, his wife Jenny, who is supposed to give birth to their son at the end of the month.

But the news was too much, says Defrenn's father, "It really, really threw her body into a major shock."

Jenny's blood pressure skyrocketed. She was rushed to Palmetto Baptist. Doctors decided to induce labor. Garth says, "Jenny needed to have the child now so she could deal with the death of her husband."

Tuesday afternoon, Jenny gave birth to a healthy son.

Jason's father tells WIS, "At first, Jenny thought maybe she might want to call him Jason Garth Defrenn, Jr. But she felt like she should go along with her husband's wishes and call him what he wanted to call him. That was Christopher."

"Upstairs is a very remarkable young lady," says Garth. "She is just as much of a patriot as my son. She has given everything for this country. She loved him dearly and her heart is broken."

The soldier leaves behind three children and a spouse who was pregnant with their fourth child.

Laid to rest: Funeral for DeFrenn dignified

by Tim Hicks & Jared Guadagni/ Staff Writers
Remarkable and heroic were the words used to recall Jason DeFrenn's life and death as the Barnwell County community buried one of its own Feb. 16.

Army Chief Warrant Officer Jason G. DeFrenn was buried in the cemetery of the small Allen's Chapel Baptist Church in rural Barnwell County.

Earlier, a funeral service was held at First Baptist Church in Barnwell.

A crowd of about 450 mourners filled the sanctuary at that service. The funeral was also attended by state and local politicians including Gov. Mark Sanford.

Among the 14 flower arrangements at the front of the church was one adorned with a model Apache helicopter. Also at the front was a large portrait of the Army pilot in a desert camouflage uniform set on an easel.

DeFrenn's AH-64 Apache helicopter was shot down Feb. 2 by Iraqi insurgent ground fire. DeFrenn and his copilot, Chief Warrant Officer Keith Yoakum of Hemet, Calif., were both killed in the crash.

DeFrenn and Yoakum's helicopter had turned back and engaged the enemy to protect an American flight formation, according to an Army statement.

DeFrenn's father, Garth DeFrenn recalls his son's last actions in combat during the eulogy.

“My son did something very remarkable two weeks ago. While in combat, he was fired upon. My son decide to come in between the fire,” he said. “In those few seconds, my son decided to lay down his life so others could live.”

“My son was fearless - but he was thoughtful.

“I think all soldiers are like that - fearless and thoughtful. They do something we can't do,” DeFrenn said.

A PowerPoint computer presentation of photos from Jason's childhood preceded words of comfort from three pastors.

DeFrenn's remains, encased in a silver-colored casket, arrived at Barnwell Regional Airport Feb. 13 via a chartered airplane. An honor guard received the casket as a crowd of about 60 family, friends and community stood nearby in an open hangar.

“I couldn't ask for a better homecoming for my son,” DeFrenn said during the eulogy.

Also during the eulogy, DeFrenn referred to Jason's children and what characteristics they inherited from their father.

DeFrenn also mentioned Jason's newest child, Christopher Andrew DeFrenn, who was born Feb. 6, days after his father died in Iraq.

Jenny DeFrenn is Christopher's mother and Jason's widow.

“I hope Christopher grows up to be a peacemaker - we all need peace,” he said.

During the church service, Army personnel presented Garth DeFrenn, Jenny DeFrenn and Fran Nettles, Jason's mother, with copies of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals which DeFrenn was awarded posthumously. The three were also given folded American flags at the graveside service.

Jessica and Alexander DeFrenn, Jason's daughter and son, were given copies of their father's identification tags as well.

Ann Ricard and two other representatives from the Midlands chapter of the Blue Star Mothers organization presented DeFrenn's mother, father and widow with the Gold Star Banner. Blue Star parents have children serving in the military and a Gold Star relatives have lost a family member during their military duty.

“It's just great Barnwell has come together,” Ricard said.

Other towns have not shown this kind of support, she said.

Jason DeFrenn is survived by his wife Jennifer “Jenny” Still DeFrenn, Alexander Jason DeFrenn, 15; Jessica Elaine DeFrenn, 10; Michael Alexander DeFrenn, 5; and Christopher Andrew DeFrenn, born Feb. 6.

Relatives, friends and dignitaries weren't the only ones attending DeFrenn's funeral.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders arrived on 90 motorcycles to escort the hearse to the cemetery. The motorcyclists, many of them veterans, came from North and South Carolina and Georgia.

Flags and yellow ribbons decorated Barnwell in a show of support Feb. 16.

A crowd of about 20 Barnwellians watched the funeral's proceedings from across Allen Street. Some held American flags.

“There is no greater sacrifice than to lay down your life for your country, said a crying Charlene Young of Barnwell.

The event was more personal for Jacqueline Williams of Barnwell, who just had her 20-year-old son deployed to Iraq.

“I'm not saying it didn't mean anything before, but this definitely hits home,” she said.

Foy Dyches saw a steady stream of people come to Dyches Funeral Home offering condolences, he said. His mortuary handled the funeral.

“I bet we've had a thousand (people) coming by to sign the register,” he said.

On Feb. 15, Chief Warrant Officer Frank Campagna, Capt. Jay McElveen and Sgt. Charles Hancock arrived in Barnwell from McEntire Air Force Base in Eastover to arrange one final tribute - the “missing man” formation of three S.C. Air National Guard Apaches to fly over the graveside ceremony.

The three National Guardsmen sighted in coordinates for the flyover with two Apaches making practice runs. The helicopters were from the 1-151st Aviation Battalion of the S.C. Air National Guard, said McElveen, himself an Apache pilot.

After being presented with an American flag folded in its traditional triangular shape, Garth DeFrenn cradled it much like his daughter-in-law cradled her newborn son beside him during the service.

“It went really well, I was very pleased,” DeFrenn said of the service.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason G. Defrenn was killed in action on 02/02/07.

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