Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Army Sgt. Adam J. Plumondore

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Adam J. Plumondore, 22, of Gresham, Ore.

Sgt. Plumondore was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.; killed Feb. 16, 2005 when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Mosul, Iraq.

Big crowd honors a big man
Family and friends gather in Gresham to remember the life of Army Sgt. Adam Plumondore, killed in Iraq
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
GRESHAM -- Army Sgt. Adam Plumondore was big -- 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds -- and he lived as large as he was. He liked to wear wide-brimmed cowboy hats. He liked to shoot big guns and wield big chain saws. He liked the great outdoors and listening to country and western music.

When he and his buddies went out dancing, "we just had a blast watching his head bob around the floor -- it was all you could see," his uncle, Alan Birchfield, said Tuesday at the 22-year-old soldier's funeral service in Gresham.

About 500 people turned out at Greater Gresham Baptist Church to mourn the 2001 Gresham High School graduate, who died Feb. 16 in Mosul, Iraq, after an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. But sadness was mixed with laughter as loved ones shared story after story of a man they said had a huge appetite for life and rarely stopped smiling.

Chris Bartlett, a neighbor of the Plumondore family, recalled occasionally hearing someone peeling out in the street, then looking outside to see Plumondore on his motorcycle, driving wildly up and down the road and grinning.

"Bigger was always better with Adam," he said.

Big fisherman, too

Plumondore, an expert marksman and athlete, also was an avid hunter and fisherman, making frequent outings to woods and water with his father, Dan, and older brother, Ron. Celebratory photos suggest he caught more big fish in 22 years than many fishermen catch in a lifetime.

And over the years, lots of photos were taken of Plumondore; many were displayed Tuesday in a series of video memorials spanning infancy to adulthood. In one, "Plumbob" appeared as a rather large adult laughing while sitting on the lap of his mother, Elfriede. In another, he was a small boy sitting behind the wheel of the family truck, steering with the help of his father, Dan.

Plumondore, a sniper, enlisted in the Army in 2001 and was based at Fort Lewis, Wash. At the time of his death, he had been stationed in Iraq for about four months, deployed there just days before he expected to be discharged from the military.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski, one of several speakers on Tuesday, said Plumondore believed in what he was fighting for as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and died stepping into the shoes of another soldier who was supposed to be on patrol that day. At the time of the explosion, he was positioned in a weapons hatch that left parts of his body exposed.

"No one can replace, and time cannot dim, the memory of Adam Plumondore," Kulongoski said. "He's as fixed in our hearts as God is in our prayers."

A patriot's dream

When dedication leads to the death of a patriot who dreamed of a career as a police officer, the governor added, "then Oregon has lost a valuable, irreplaceable part of its future."

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Michael A. Dunn said Plumondore, assigned to the 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, was a respected senior member of a reconnaissance platoon who showed fierce bravery during battle.

Military officials also fondly remembered Plumondore as a "walking uniform violation," often failing to buckle his chin strap or keep his sleeves rolled down.

"I think it's pretty clear the uniform regulations were advisory to him" Dunn said, drawing laughter.

Birchfield, Plumondore's uncle, read a message from a lieutenant colonel in Iraq that described several heroic actions by his nephew, including an incident in which he helped rescue injured soldiers from a burning vehicle after it was hit in a suicide car bombing.

" 'He jumped out of his vehicle with fire extinguishers in his hands,' " Birchfield read.

Birchfield then presented his late nephew with his own badge from the Wasco County Sheriff's Office, saying he had dreamed of working with Plumondore and Plumondore's brother one day.

"It may not be as important as his Bronze Star or his Purple Heart, but it means something to me," Birchfield said. "I know it would have meant something to him."

Medals at cemetery

Plumondore was posthumously awarded both of those medals at a ceremony later Tuesday at the Willamette National Cemetery, where he was buried following a rifle salute and the playing of "Taps."

In life, country singer George Strait was Plumondore's favorite, and Strait's warm voice crooned over the church's sound system as hundreds of mourners assembled. A few toes couldn't resist tapping to the upbeat tempo, but the words told the real story.

"Am I blue? Yes I'm blue. It started the day I lost you. . . . Am I blue. . . ."

Army Sgt. Adam J. Plumondore was killed in action on 2/16/05.

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