Friday, September 24, 2010

Army Pfc. Jaysine P. S. Petree

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Jaysine P. S. Petree, 19, of Yigo, Guam

Pfc. Petree was assigned to 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Fort Richardson, Alaska; died Sept. 24, 2010 while traveling between Ghanzi and Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, when her military vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Pfc. William B. Dawson.

The Guam National Guard is stepping in to assist the family of fallen U.S. Army Private First Class Jaysine Petree. Adjutant General Major General Donald Goldhorn paid a visit to the family's residence in Yigo this morning.

"When we have a fallen service member on Guam, the entire island of Guam comes together to support that family and I extend my appreciation for what all the members and people of Guam do in times like this," Goldhorn said.

PFC Petree died on September 24 after the vehicle she was in was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Her parents, Jayne and Herbert Petree say they did not want their daughter to join the Army, but that it was her drive to take care of her family and pay her way through college that compelled her to do so. They say the last time they spoke to their daughter was last week, Wednesday.

Jayne said, "I was very surprised when those sergeants came and then they told me that she was dead. I'm really, really surprised, I cannot believe until we are doing the rosary; I cannot still believe that she passed away because she always called me, she will notify me anywhere they go."

Herbert added "Everytime she called no matter what time or day she always called to tell us, 'We're going out on a mission, pray for me and I'll call you when I get back and again.' Like the wife said, she never called."

"My final words to her is that I love her so much," her mother tearfully added, with her father saying, "And we'll miss her deeply."

A beaming smile, frozen in a photograph, greets you in the front office of Simon Sanchez High School. But the swelling pride that face brought the school is now drowned in sorrow.

Army Pfc. Jaysine Petree, 19, is just one in a long line of Simon Sanchez students who enlisted in the military and fought for their country overseas. Now, she's the latest in a tragic list of graduates who won't come back.

An explosive in Afghanistan killed Petree on Friday, after only 19 months in the military. She graduated from Simon Sanchez in 2009.

Petree is the second recent graduate of Simon Sanchez to die in the war in Afghanistan, following 2005 graduate Joshua Akoni Sablan Lukeala, a 23-year-old Army sergeant who died in June.

Many students who knew and admired Petree still walk the school's halls every day. "She seemed like one of those students who knew what she wanted and decided to go after it," said Beth Perez, Simon Sanchez High principal. "So we're proud because she was making her way in the world, but this is a sad day for our school."

Perez said Simon Sanchez students and their families understand the risks when students choose to enter the military after graduation. Despite the danger -- and the high price some pay -- they enlist anyway, she said.

"We still have a strong JROTC program, and we still have many students who want to serve their country, ... just like this lady," Perez said. "Although she was not in the JROTC program, from the outside looking in, this is still what she wanted to do."

Although Petree wasn't involved in the school's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program, she approached Capt. Ignas Susuico, the school program's senior instructor, with interest in what the military could do for her future. Many Simon Sanchez students do.

Susuico said there currently are about 235 students enrolled in the Junior ROTC programs at Simon Sanchez, and about 15 to 20 students a year join the military.

Petree signed up for the Army in June 2008, a year ahead of graduation, after Susuico connected her with a recruiter.

"She wanted to go to college," said Susuico, explaining that Petree hoped the military could pay for her tuition. "She wanted to get into the delayed entry program, earn some military time, as well as get a bonus."

The girl's death was a "tragic loss" for the entire island, Susuico said yesterday. "And that's the price of freedom that we live through every day," he said.

Even if a photo of Petree's smile wasn't framed in the office and hung on the wall of the teacher's lounge, Robert Becker wouldn't forget it.

Becker, a Simon Sanchez physical education teacher, said Petree was the kind of graduate any high school would be proud to produce. It's a shame the war has denied Guam the chance to have Petree make the island a better place, Becker said. "We lost somebody that I felt would have eventually made a difference in the world," Becker said. "She just had that personality that made everyone around her happy."

Petree's memory won't fade for Luis Cabral either, who taught her in choir and band a few years back. "There are students you can't forget and she's one of them," Cabral said yesterday. "She was always fun."

Every teacher struggles when they lose a student, even a former student, Cabral said. He said he was shocked by the news of her death. Cabral said it stung a little to see her photo framed on the high school's walls, but it's posted for a reason.

"At Sanchez, we take a lot of pride in the kids who do succeed," Cabral said. "Having her up on that board, we hoped she was an inspiration to the other kids. I would like to think it still will be an inspiration."

"She's a very short, petite young lady, but she had a big heart and a very strong and driven desire to succeed," U.S. Army Captain Ignus Susiuco, the senior instructor of the JROTC battalion at Simon Sanchez High School, recalled.

The private first class, known by many as "Jen" was killed while serving in Afghanistan after she came in contact with an improvised explosive device. According to her father, Herbert Petree, she had only been in the army for about 19 months and while stationed in Alaska was sent on her very first deployment. "Jaysine was a very outgoing and loving female," Cpt Susuico added. "She enjoyed her family and friends."

He added, "She was a very strong individual - she liked to be outdoors, she liked to take care of her family and friends and she enjoyed different kind of things, sports and stuff like that."

She joined the U.S. Army straight out of high school last year because she wanted to bring her family to the U.S. mainland. “It was our goal together that we were going to have a big house on the mainland and bring our family there,” said Jam Petree, Jaysine’s younger brother.

After moving to Guam from the Philippines in 2002, Jam said he and his sister promised each other to work together to help their family. “We just wanted to be successful in life. That was our main goal together,” Jam explained.

Jam said he was in the Philippines when he learned of his sister’s death and immediately flew back to Guam to be with his family. “My uncle called me because my mom couldn’t speak,” Jam said. “She was in shock.”

Petree’s body was flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware yesterday, Guam time. It was unknown as of yesterday when Petree’s body will be flown to Guam.

Army Pfc. Jaysine P. S. Petree was killed in action on 9/24/10.

No comments: