Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Army Sgt. James A. Ayube II

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. James A. Ayube II, 25, of Salem, Mass.

Sgt Ayube was assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany; died Dec. 8, 2010 in Balkh province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an insurgent attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Army Spc. Kelly J. Mixon.

Lauren Elizabeth Ayube's life changed forever with a simple knock at the door last Wednesday.

Two men dressed in formal Class A Army uniforms were standing solemnly outside, and, deep down, the Gloucester native knew what that meant: Her husband, Sgt. James Ayube Jr., a combat medic serving in Afghanistan, had been killed. But she wouldn't let herself believe it, not right away.

"I had a weird, surreal moment. I asked them, 'Why are you dressed like that?'" Lauren Ayube, who attended Gloucester High School, said Sunday. "They asked me if I was Mrs. Ayube, and I said, 'Yes, but why are you dressed like that?' No matter how many times I thought about this moment in my head, I wasn't prepared." She collapsed to the floor, screaming that they must by lying.

James Ayube Jr., 25, of Salem, died Wednesday in Kandahar Providence Afghanistan, when a suicide bomber rounded the corner of a building and blew himself up near the spot where Ayube and Kelly J. Mixon, of Fernandina Beach, Fla. were standing. Both men were killed. The fateful knock on the door came Wednesday evening, and since then the Ayube family has been trying to process the tragedy.

"It was so unreal the first couple days. It's only now sinking in. We're devastated," his father, James Ayube Sr. of Salem, said yesterday.

"It's hard to imagine not having your kid around. It's just not right, a parent having to bury their child. I wish I could make a deal with the devil and switch places with him."

Ayube's body will be brought back to Salem sometime this week and his funeral will likely be soon after.

Ayube, who graduated from Salem High School in 2003, had been in Afghanistan since June and was just three and a half weeks away from going on leave, his wife said. Despite the distance, Lauren, 24, spoke to her husband every day.

"Because of the time difference, when I was waking up, he was going to bed, and when I was going to bed he was waking up," she said. "So we spoke twice a day. We began and ended each day together."

Lauren Ayube, who had played on the Gloucester High School girls tennis team and also acted in King Arthur's Faire at Hammond Castle for several years, was 18 and James just 20 when they met while he was a student at Bunker Hill Community College studying sociology. Ayube enlisted in the Army shortly before the couple married.

Driven to help wounded

From the get-go, Ayube knew he wanted to aid wounded soldiers.

"Initially, I think he did it because he was in the Boy Scouts growing up and he always had a feeling of duty for his country," Lauren said. "He wanted to do something to help."

His son was a religious man and didn't believe in war, his father said. But, despite his beliefs, he understood that people were dying and they needed help.

"That's the type of kid he was, always willing to help other people," James Ayube Sr. said. "He didn't want to be involved in killing or hurting anyone, so he thought being a medic was the best way to help."

"The war was a separate issue from his service," Lauren explained.

Initially, he wanted to join the Navy as a corpsman, the Naval version of a medic. But that changed when Ayube saw the powerful HBO mini-series "Band of Brothers," which depicts an Army company during World War II.

He "saw (medic) Gilbert Roe's character running through the trenches during one part of the show and something clicked for him," Lauren said. "He said, 'that's for me.'"

In early 2008, shortly after they were married, Lauren and James moved to an Army base in Vilseck, Germany. Almost immediately, he got orders to deploy for eight months in Iraq.

"I made him promise me that if things got bad or he saw or experienced something traumatic that he tell me," she said. "I knew all about (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and I didn't want to be shocked to find things out later."

Ayube's deployment in Iraq was relatively uneventful, and after it ended, the couple spent a happy year and a half in Germany. In June, Ayube was given orders to deploy to Afghanistan. The young soldier saw much more action during his second deployment, Lauren said. Keeping his promise, Ayube told his wife about fire fights with insurgents, and the increased use of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in the area.

"It made me nervous. I was nervous about IEDs or that he'd be shot by a sniper. Suicide bomber was not on the forefront of my mind," she said.

'Had to support him'

Ayube was very much aware of the risks before he chose to enlist as a combat medic, his father said.

"Nobody ever wants to see their kid in harm's way. There were 1,000 reasons for him not to do it," his father said.

"He was 21. Nobody his age believes it's going to happen to him; it's going to be the guy next to him. To their credit, the Army never minimized the danger he was putting himself in. He understood he was going to be in danger and he still signed the papers. I had to support him. As much as I love my son, every other parent feels that way. I can't say my son was better than anyone else's son. If he wanted to do it, I wasn't going to stop him."

Ayube's deployment was set to end next year, and "we had made a lot of plans," Lauren said.

Ayube had planned to re-enlist and request a transfer to Fort Carson, Colo., where Lauren was going to enroll in college. After graduation, the couple would move back to Salem to start a family.

"James really wanted to have kids, he really wanted to be a dad. We saw a house for sale close to his parents and we were thinking about buying it," Lauren said. "We were ready to do the whole family thing."

"It's hard to imagine, hard to accept that we're never going to see him again," his father said. "We were looking forward so much to getting him out of Afghanistan. I hadn't hardly seen the kid in three-and-a-half years. I was looking forward to seeing him as the man he'd grown up to be — a wonderful man."

Army Sgt. James A. Ayube II was killed in action on 12/08/10.

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