Remembering My Friend Jim

I asked my wife tonight if it was ever appropriate to say “Happy” Memorial Day? This is a day we honor the fallen right? Well, I have a friend I want to honor. I am happy to know him. I was going to say “have known” but no one in Christ is ever lost and he is now experiencing a much better reality right now probably fighting the Lord’s battles. He loved Jesus! I was thinking about Jim today and our times together as children.

10570332_10152245757460205_3040573498795337408_nI knew him as “Jimmy” and as a child I really enjoyed spending time with him and his family. I remember making forts in the rocky outcroppings near his house. I remember “ninja-ing” through backyards as we flipped over fences and moved stealthily so as not to be seen.

(“Ninja-ing” was a completely innocent game of dressing up in dark clothing, even facemasks made from shirts, and traveling through peoples backyards at night.)

We once were hiking and saw a couple people starting up a hill on their bikes along a path and we decided to intercept and spy on them. Once we got to the top we found a great place to hide to spy on them.

We had great adventures. I think I remember hearing that he had once told his dad Joel that he couldn’t imagine doing a boring job, that the Lovett boys had ruined him for a life of adventure. So he joined the military and became a sniper.

I wanted to publicly apologize to his dad Joel for something else though. You see I had some bitterness toward my own dad growing up. My parents fought a great deal or most often ignored each other. At the time all I talked about was running away and living in the woods. Well, the truth is, I believe that my bitterness was passed on to Jimmy at the time and I may have caused some distance and lack of closeness in the relationship between Joel and his son. I cannot tell you how sorry I was for that over the years. Please forgive me.

My only consolation is that heaven will wipe away all tears and all fellowship will be fully and finally restored.

The following is the article about my friend who passed into glory on January 28th 2008:

An Army sergeant from Spokane was killed along with four other 4th Infantry Division soldiers Monday when a roadside bomb destroyed their vehicle in Mosul, Iraq.

Sgt. James E. Craig, 26, was married in Spokane in July and deployed in December for his third tour in Iraq, according to his father, Joel Craig, of Cheney.

“He was a wonderful man who loved the Lord Jesus Christ with his whole heart,” Craig said. “He served his country with dignity and honor.”

Sgt. Craig was born in Spokane. He moved to the Cusick area, in Pend Oreille County, where he attended high school before moving with his parents, Joel and Phyllis Craig, to the East Coast for a time. He graduated in 2000 from Academic Magnet High School near Hollywood, S.C..

While in school, Craig earned top scores, was an accomplished musician and a star football player and wrestler, his father said.

“Coaches asked me if I had any others like him at home,” Joel Craig said.

He remembered his son as a “thrill seeker” who loved action, even as a 12-year-old.

“He once flew my dirt bike over the barn roof,” Joel Craig said. “I saw the motorcycle flying through the air with him on it.”

Upon graduating from high school, Craig joined the U.S. Army and was trained at Fort Benning, Ga., before being stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where he became a sniper. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Craig requested to be transferred to a unit that would see action overseas — the 4th Infantry at Fort Carson, Colo., his father said.

Craig met his wife, Natalie, on the Internet while he was on active duty. It was an “amazing coincidence” because she was a member of his Spokane church, Fourth Memorial Church, Joel Craig said.

“When we found out, we invited her to come to the airport with us to meet him (in person),” his father said. “It was like the movies – a wonderful romance.”

Craig was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, as were the other soldiers killed in Monday’s attack – Staff Sgt. Gary W. Jeffries, 37, of Roscoe, Texas; Spc. Evan A. Marshall, 21, of Athens, Ga.; Pfc. Brandon A. Meyer, 20, of Orange, Calif.; and Pvt. Joshua A.R. Young, 21, of Riddle, Ore.

Craig was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Prior to his death, Craig was twice awarded the Army Commendation Medal among other honors, which included the Combat Infantryman Badge.

During his last deployment in Iraq, Craig was involved in a firefight during which his body armor stopped four rounds from enemy rifle fire, said his father, who recalled his son telling him, “I’m no hero, Dad. We all do the same thing every day.”

Craig is survived by his wife, parents and four sisters: Lola Hanson, Menesia Spade, Kelly Inman and Rachael Putman, all of the Spokane area.

His father said all veterans and church members are invited to attend a memorial service for Sgt. James Craig at 10 a.m. Feb. 9 at Fourth Memorial Church, 2000 N. Standard St.

From The Spokesman Review 02/01/08:
Army sergeant from Spokane dies in Iraq

Kevin Graman
Staff writer
February 1, 2008

Here is another article from the same Source:

From The Post and Courier 02/01/08:
Oregon pen pal remembers soldier

North Charleston teacher also recalls Sgt. James Craig
By Ron Menchaca
The Post and Courier
Friday, February 1, 2008

Oregon farmer Cynthia Heeren has corresponded with hundreds of soldiers serving in combat over the years. She’d never lost one of them to war — until Monday.

One of her favorite pen pals, Army Sgt. James E. Craig, a 2000 graduate of North Charleston’s Academic Magnet High School, was one of five soldiers killed this week by a roadside bomb in Mosul, Iraq. The men were assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade

Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo.

The attack coincided with a rifle ambush from insurgents, according to news reports. Also killed in the attack were Staff Sgt. Gary W. Jeffries, 37, of Roscoe, Texas; Spc. Evan A. Marshall, 21, of Athens, Ga.; Pfc. Brandon A. Meyer, 20, of Orange, Calif.; and Pvt. Joshua A.R. Young, 21, of Riddle, Ore.

Karen Collins Hames, a physics instructor, taught Craig his senior year at Academic Magnet.

She remembers him as cheerful and outgoing, someone who would help anyone in a heartbeat. “He had a terrific sense of humor and also was a person of faith.”

Heeren never got the chance to meet Craig in person, but she knew the details of his life from long letters he would send from the battlefield. They occasionally spoke by phone. “He was just a terrific kid. He had this great smile and it came through in his letters. His spirit came through.”

Craig, 26, often wrote about his love for his family and his Christian faith. He felt fortunate to have a support system back home and would ask Heeren to round up pen pals for his buddies, so they could receive mail, too.

Heeren remembers when Craig called her with exciting news. He’d met a girl, the one he would marry. Her name was Natalie. “It was love at first sight,” she said

“She is the kind of woman that God would want me to have,” Craig wrote in a 2006 letter. “So we are going to take things slowly and keep our relationship pure. I am very excited about her.”

They married in July 2007. A wedding photo shows Craig decked out in his Army dress blues, his Infantry blue cord worn proudly over his right shoulder. In her silky white dress, Natalie held her husband tight and beamed at the camera.

A few months later, Craig shipped out for what Heeren said was his third deployment to Iraq. “He loved the Army. He loved what he was doing.”

Craig had been in the Army eight years. He planned to serve until 2010 and return to Washington state to start a family with Natalie.

While Craig spent a few years in South Carolina during high school and the military listed his home of record as Hollywood, he considered the Spokane, Wash., area his real home, Heeren said.

Attempts to reach Craig’s family in Washington were unsuccessful. Funeral arrangements likely will take place in the Spokane area, Heeren said.

Hames last spoke to Craig before his first deployment to Iraq. “He asked me to pray for him, that he would be safe,” she recalled. “But he then said, ‘If it ever is my time to go, I know I’m ready.’ “

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