Saturday, June 20, 2009

Army 1st Sgt. John D. Blair

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Sgt. John D. Blair, 38, of Calhoun, Ga.

First Sgt. Blair was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, Army National Guard, Lawrenceville, Ga.; died June 20, 2009 in Mado Zayi, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle.

Chattanooga Times Free Press -- The body of Georgia Army National Guardsman and former Gordon County Deputy Sheriff John D. Blair, who was killed in combat in Afghanistan on June 20, will be returned to Calhoun on Monday, according to a Sheriff's Office news release.

A military and law enforcement procession will assemble at the Tom B. David Airport and escort the body north on U.S. Highway 41 to Trinity Baptist Church. Visitation will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

Services will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the church, with burial following at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton with full military and police honors.

1st Sgt. Blair, who went to boot camp before finishing high school, was honored by both his home and adopted states for giving his life during the Afghanistan.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced the state’s flags will fly at half-staff on the day 1st Blair is buried.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., called the soldier, who lived in Calhoun, an “American hero and patriot” on the House floor.

1st Sgt. Blair served as a deputy for more than eight years before taking a full-time position with the Georgia National Guard.

A husband, father and grandfather, 1st Sgt. Blair served as an example and mentor to his fellow deputies and soldiers, friends and colleagues said.

Growing up in Harlan County, Ky., he joined the Kentucky National Guard between his junior and senior years in high school and later moved to Calhoun, where he worked with the sheriff’s office.

Deputies wore black bands around their badges last week in memory of the man they called “Gooch.”

“He was passionate about everything he did,” Detective Shane Parrott said of his longtime friend.

Soldiers echoed his comments.

During a 45-minute firefight in Mado Zayi, Afghanistan, on June 20, Staff Sgt. Timothy Bellinger heard the first sergeant’s gun blazing from the vehicle’s gun turret, firing about 80 rounds before a rocket-propelled grenade tore through the turret, according the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

“I am going to miss him. I miss him already. But we are going to wake up, put our boots on and do what we came here to do,” the staff sergeant told the Stars and Stripes.

He said 1st Sgt. Blair admonished his troops not to “ever give up. You don’t ever give up.”

The Georgia soldier was a “tough, unrelenting” leader, the Stars and Stripes reported.

“He was the meanest, kindest person you’d ever meet,” Pfc. Justin Campbell told Stars and Stripes. “If he didn’t cuss at you, he didn’t like you.”

First Sgt. Blair was a part of Company A of the Guard’s 48th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Division.

Army 1st Sgt. John D. Blair was killed in action on 6/20/09.

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