Friday, May 01, 2009

Army Sgt. James D. Pirtle

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. James D. Pirtle, 21, of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Sgt. Pirtle was assigned to the Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died May 1, 2009 near the village of Nishagam, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit. Also killed were Spc. Ryan C. King and Staff Sgt. William D. Vile.

Colorado Springs Gazette -- When Dina Wood first saw James "Jimmy" Pirtle in middle school, his hair was dyed green and styled into spikes.

The Colorado Springs native wasn't the typical person who would grow up to join the Army, excel as a soldier and ultimately lose his life in combat.

"He was a good boy who turned into a really good man," Wood said.

Sgt. Pirtle was killed Friday in Afghanistan in an attack that also killed two other Americans and two allied troops. He was 21.

His mother, Patricia Pirtle, said her son was among the three American soldiers who died last week. An Army chaplain gave Patricia Pirtle the news on Friday.

"The storm door was open and it only took me a couple of seconds to notice she was a chaplain," Patricia Pirtle said. "She didn't even have to tell me. I knew."

Pirtle leaves behind his mother, father James Pirtle and sisters Jennifer Bergstrom and Jacqueline Pirtle.

Jimmy Pirtle graduated from Globe Charter School in 2006 and immediately enlisted in the Army, despite his mother's fears.

"Coming from a military family, I was very proud of him, but my first response was, ‘Why can't you wait until it's peace time?" Patricia Pirtle said.

She said he was very patriotic and an enthusiastic soldier who quickly worked his way up to sergeant. In Afghanistan, he often volunteered for missions that he knew would be dangerous, his mother said.

It worried her, but she took solace in knowing he was due home in June.

His friends and teachers at the small Globe Charter School said they still can't believe that he died. On Monday, a group of them gathered at the school to look at old photos and remember a friend who always had a smile on his face, was a constant joker and was also the butt of many jokes. Once, teachers and students duct-taped him to a tree because he said it couldn't be done.

"It took two full rolls," said teacher Jan Songer. "We left him out there for a while."

As he grew up, his hairstyle changed from green spikes to a mohawk to a more traditional short style. He also started contemplating joining the Army. When he enlisted, he was so excited that he tried to get all his friends to enlist as well. His friends said he knew the dangers, but that didn't deter him.

"He just wanted to be part of something bigger than himself," said Andrew Thurn, one of his best friends. "He was OK dying if he was serving his country."

After he joined, he changed for the better, Thurn said. He was still the same Jimmy with the same goofy grin, but he had also turned into a responsible man.

"It was as if the Army upgraded him. Like Jimmy 2.0," Thurn said.

Patricia Pirtle said her son will be buried at Fort Logan cemetery in Denver so he can be surrounded by other soldiers. The family is scheduling his funeral.

Wood, said that his death has opened her eyes to what is happening in the Middle East. She hopes other people understand that every soldier who dies there has a life and is an individual.

"Remember they are just not another soldier," Wood said. "They are a funny guy who used to have green hair who lived for others and his country."

Army Sgt. James D. Pirtle was killed in action on 5/1/09.

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