Friday, February 01, 2008

SGT James Craig ~ Farewell, My Friend ~ Walk with God

Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.

-Psalm 144:1


This is my friend, James. We 'adopted' James after he received a Christmas card from us in 2005 and wrote to thank us for it. We wrote and sent packages through out that year of his deployment. James sent long and fascinating emails. He was a character with a spirit as loud as it was kind. He was devoutly Christian and not afraid or hesitant to talk about it. At his mid-term leave in Fall 2006, James met the love of his life, Natalie. They married in July 2007. And, now, James is walking with God. Please feel free to join me in my wandering memories of James. I want you to know this wonderful young man who just gave his life for our country, for us.

When James recently returned for his third deployment to Iraq, he sent this email from Kuwait:

"Please write to me and pray for me. I would love to get letters and updates from all of you. I look forward to 2010 when I will finally be out of the Army and can carry on a regular life and can be a bigger part of your lives. You are all loved by me very much, that's why you are getting an email. I hope this letter finds you all in happiness and Christmas cheer."


James, 27, was killed on January 28, 2008, in Mosul, Iraq, along with four other soldiers when the unit encountered an IED, followed by an ambush from a nearby Mosque. They were members of the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.

Also killed were (click on their names to read their stories):

Staff Sergeant Gary W Jeffries, 37, Roscoe, Texas

Specialist Evan A Marshall, 21, of Athens, Georgia

Private First Class Brandon A Meyer, 20, of Orange, California

Private Joshua R Young, 21, of Riddle, Oregon


James served with the following units:

C Company 1/17 Infantry, Ft Wainwright, Alaska, Infantryman - Grenedier/Rifleman, 172nd ~ 1 Dec 00 - 10 Apr 02

HHC 1/17 Infantry, Ft Wainwright, Alaska, Sniper/Scout, 172nd ~ 11 Apr 02 - 18 Sept 03

B Company 1/8 Infantry, Ft. Carson, Colorado, Infantry Team Leader, 4th Infantry Division ~
19 Sep 03 - 28 January 2008


James loved being a soldier and wrote about that frequently.

James attended Cusick Jr/Sr High School in Cusick, Washington from 1992 - 1996, and the Academic Magnet High School in North Charleston, South Carolina where he graduated in 2000. He was involved in Football and Wrestling, excelled in English and Creative Writing and was member of the National Honor Society.

James called the northwest his home - specifically the area outside of Spokane - growing up 'riding horses and going camping.' He looked forward to eventually settling down somewhere in Washington. He was close to his family and spoke of his parents with great love and pride, and of his sisters and aunts, uncles and cousins. His DOD announcement and press reports list Hollywood, California and South Carolina as his home, but he considered the Spokane, Washington area his home.

I was touched by his love for his soldiers. He would send names of those he didn't think were getting enough (or any) mail and have me find people to write to them.



During his second deployment, James received a medal for some of the action he saw. Of couse, this went along with the "I got shot - don't tell my parents" email! Fortunately, the ammunition cartridge below took the brunt of the shooting!



There was also profound sadness on the 2nd deployment. James has this listed under 'Heroes' on his My Space page : Real American Heroes SPC Grant Dampier and SSG Marion Flint are the biggest heroes I have ever met who died in combat on 15 May 2006. I miss you and I will never forget you. See you on the flip side brudda' You can read their story here.

There are so many things about James that I admired. He was 'loud' and funny and articulate and sweet - even calling himself 'Sweet Soldier' - and brave and tough. He was a devout Christian and more comfortable with telling people he was than anyone I ever knew - he had a enviable, easy comfort with this faith. It would be so easy to write and write about James, but let me share some portions of his letters - his long and articulate letters.

"...I am very much looking forward to this war being over. However, I fully support everything that is going on over here ever since I saw first hand what the real situation was. Our media doesn't portray the truth of this operation or the necessity to the people here. The need freedom and desperately cry out for someone to help them. ... I know one thing, God wants me here."

"The war here is stating to come to an end. It will be a slow transition period where the responsibility of the battle space is handed over to the growing Iraqi Army. It all depends on the Iraqis if we are able to leave them with it safely."

"...it is a tale of my wonderful journey where I made memories I will never forget and stood up for something that I believe in...that sweet taste of freedom when the day is done and the knowledge that I have done something to ensure the positive future of my loved ones. And, you should know that it comforts me the most that what I do protects wonderful people like you."





"I just got back from my R&R around the 15th (september 2006). I spent a lot of time with family, wne on a couple of adventures, and met a very special Christian womand named Natalie who I have begun a relationship with...just wait until you meet her. I have included some pictures in this letter."

"I know the Bible says not to be anxious, but it is so difficult not to be when we only have a few weeks left of this deployment and I have met a wonderful Christian woman... Natalie. She is the kind of woman that God would want me to have, so we are going to take things slowley and keep our relationship pure. I am very excited about her."

James and Natalie were married in July 2007!!! It was a joy to watch their love grow and mature.


When I think of James, I always see that brilliant smile. I think of the love he had for life, for the Army, for his fellow soldiers, for his family, for his beloved Natalie, and for his friends. Dear James, you will be missed by so many people. You have touched so many lives. Many will have a difficult time going forward without you. I know God will provide comfort to them. The world will be a little less without the brightness that you brought. Farewell, my friend, and walk with God.

The Patriot Guard Riders will be at the funeral and memorial events Which will take place on the 9th in the Spokane area at the .at Fourth Memorial Church, 2000 N. Standard St., Spokane

News Reports on James:

38 comments:

Amber Martinez said...

Thank you for honoring James Craig and for showing the world what a wonderful man of God he was. Jim is my cousin and will truly be missed.

Jenn of the Jungle said...

There are no words that can convey my sadness at the passing of your dear friend.

Just wanted to let you know I am thinking of you.

Gail A. said...

RIP Sgt Craig. Thoughts & prayers for his family and friends.

Ron Simpson said...

I am sorry for the loss of your friend. Words cannot lessen the pain the people that love him feel, but I will say that it seems like he led the life he wanted and was happy with what he had. To often in life we lose the ones that make our lives fun. But the best tribute you can make to these people is to have fun in their memory.

Douglas V. Gibbs said...

God Bless him for his service, and my prayers are with you and his family and friends.

American Interests said...

Read with sadness, a beautiful tribute, God bless all...

Andrew said...

I cannot express my sorrow for James' family and friends. I had adopted James through the organization adoptaplatoon to support him during his current tour, and though I didn't get to know him well yet, he was a smart and dedicated man, who touched the lives of those around him, and I feel a great sorrow with his passing.

De'on said...

Dearest Family of the Fallen, dearest Flag Gazer:

My heart breaks with you. I am so very sorry for this loss, but from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for his life.

My family joins with you this day and the days to follow in mourning such a soldier, such a man, a son, a husband, a friend and a defender of our freedoms. We too lost a precious Marine in 2004. While there are no words to give comfort at this time, I hope the fact that you know we care will bring some measure of peace as it is God and God alone that will supply the rest.

It is in sacrifice and too often in suffering we follow Him and one day, death will touch us no more.

God keep you all the days of your lives,
De'on Miller and the family of Lance Corporal Aaron C. Austin, USMC, KIA April 26, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq

Toni said...

What to say when you lose a loved one in war? I mourn for you and his wife and family. I can't tell you how many young warriors I have gotten to know and mourn at the time of their death. Each PGR honor mission for these heroes burns a hole in your heart. Regrets for the loss of your friend.

jennybean46 said...

My thought and prayers are with EVERY soldier that is over there.
My Husband is about to be over there...

Michael Bank said...

As a friend of James from high school, and an iraqi veteran. We even crossed pathes once over there, i know that he is proud of what he has done and has no regrets. The only thing he would want is to be remembered for the hero that he is.

Kathi said...

My thought and prayers are with James' family and friends, and you,dear.

And, with the families and friends of all those who fell with him that day,also.

Thank you, for sharing a glimpse of what a wonderful young man he was.

CyberPastor said...

What words can one say to make sense of something like this. All I know to say is "Dear God in Heaven - please be close to the family and friends of this hero and the other heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, Amen".

FG - my prayers are with you! I posted one of the pictures and the beginning of your post and linked it back to here. Your friends would be proud of what you have done for them!

CP

Snooper said...

Rest easy my Brother. You have fought the Good Fight and now you sit with our Father.

Flag...please forward my heart-felt condolences from this retired warrior to theirs.

God Bless them every one.

Nelson said...

R.I.P. God keep him.

MaryAnn said...

I'm so very, very sorry for your loss, Cynthia.

Please extend my deepest condolences to Natalie and James' family. I will keep them, the families of James' fallen brothers, and the entire unit in my thoughts an prayers. Know that you do not mourn alone, and that we will always stand with you.

Thank you for telling us about this wonderful young man and American Hero so that we can remember him always - with pride, and with gratitude.

God bless you all, and God bless our troops.

Sarge Charlie said...

My condolences, I have friends that we have got to know via email and anysoldier.com. I have wondered what I would do if one of them were injured. My thoughts are with his family, and you are family.

Buck said...

Once again, my condolences to James' family and you for your loss.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

De'on Miller said...

Dear all, I will carry this link to Gunz Up. The tribute is beautiful and though I don't expect there will be a lot of comments from our blog, I know that there are those who read that will be touched so deeply by who and what this fantastic soldier represents.

Every one needs prayers and we will keep them coming for the families of this group of young warriors.

Again, thank you FG, and thank you Gold Star families!

God bless America and God bless those who've just deployed to heaven to further their training for the war to end, absolutely end all wars!

I wonder if our warriors we bury (all too soon for us) will be our leaders during that great battle? I kind of like to think so. I can't imagine Aaron really resting.

De'on Miller said...

Dear all, I will carry this link to Gunz Up. The tribute is beautiful and though I don't expect there will be a lot of comments from our blog, I know that there are those who read that will be touched so deeply by who and what this fantastic soldier represents.

Every one needs prayers and we will keep them coming for the families of this group of young warriors.

Again, thank you FG, and thank you Gold Star families!

God bless America and God bless those who've just deployed to heaven to further their training for the war to end, absolutely end all wars!

I wonder if our warriors we bury (all too soon for us) will be our leaders during that great battle? I kind of like to think so. I can't imagine Aaron really resting.

Mike said...

Blue skies and no wind, brother. No greater love...

Anonymous said...

James you I'm going to miss you a lot buddy. I know you died doing what we both loved and that was leading soldiers in combat. I know you are at the big Honor Hill in ski now.
"Infantry Leads the Way"

Anonymous said...

To The family and Gazer:

May the strength of God carry you through this time of sorrow because of the loss of your loved one and friend. It is a great honor to serve others and sacrifice so that they can enjoy freedom. Our hearts and prayers are with you. God Bless!

Emery / Amateur Radio Military Appreciation Day

Lola Hanson said...

My brother Jimmy, was my hero. He was my baby brother and he was my hero. I have a million wonderful memories of him that I'm lucky to have with me for the rest of my life. We all have something very special that we shared with Jimmy and I got to share something that no one else did.
My mom had Jimmy on the 27th of December, the day before my birthday. Mom and dad brought him home the next day and told me that I got a baby brother for my birthday. I was so excited and I will never forget how cute he was. I fell in love with him immediately. From that day on I always felt special and fortunate that we shared our birthdays together. Not every sister gets to have a brother for her birthday. When Jim was about five he said “Someday when he grow up I'm going to be older than you because my birthday is the day before yours!” I cracked up laughing and said “Well that's not really how it happensw, but you can just keep thinking that way.” It was interesting how he perceived things like that when he was little. He had saw a lot of things in an abstract way.
Jimmy was an incredible human being, he was kind, compassionate, loving, adventurous, and whole lotta fun to be around. He lived his life to the fullest at a hundred miles an hour all the time. I am such a better person for knowing him, loving him and being loved by him.Jimmy I love you with all my heart and I always will. I will never forget you. I know you are in a better place with the Lord Our God!
In Loving Memory Forever,
Your sister
~Lola Hanson

Lola Hanson said...

My brother Jimmy, was my hero. He was my baby brother and he was my hero. I have a million wonderful memories of him that I'm lucky to have with me for the rest of my life. We all have something very special that we shared with Jimmy and I got to share something that no one else did.
My mom had Jimmy on the 27th of December, the day before my birthday. Mom and dad brought him home the next day and told me that I got a baby brother for my birthday. I was so excited and I will never forget how cute he was. I fell in love with him immediately. From that day on I always felt special and fortunate that we shared our birthdays together. Not every sister gets to have a brother for her birthday. When Jim was about five he said “Someday when he grow up I'm going to be older than you because my birthday is the day before yours!” I cracked up laughing and said “Well that's not really how it happensw, but you can just keep thinking that way.” It was interesting how he perceived things like that when he was little. He had saw a lot of things in an abstract way.
Jimmy was an incredible human being, he was kind, compassionate, loving, adventurous, and whole lotta fun to be around. He lived his life to the fullest at a hundred miles an hour all the time. I am such a better person for knowing him, loving him and being loved by him.Jimmy I love you with all my heart and I always will. I will never forget you. I know you are in a better place with the Lord Our God!

In Loving Memory Forever,
Your sister
~Lola Hanson

Lola Hanson said...

Thank You, to everyone on this website that has written such wonderful and supportive comments about my brother James Craig. It touches my heart that he was loved so much, by so many people. He was an awesome man. I'm so happy that you all feel the same.Thank you for your prayers.
~Lola Hanson
Eldest sister of James

Thank you everyone said...

I am related to Natalie, James' wife. We were all very proud of James and so happy that Natalie met the love of her life. He was a wonderful husband to her and even though her family only knew him for a short time, we were honored to have him as part of our family. Our heart goes out to his parents and siblings for their loss. Even though he is in a better place, it is painful to not have him here with us. He loved his family very much and was a selfless, kind person to everyone he came in contact with. Thanks for all the support shown here to his large extended family and mulititude of friends.

Someone who loved James said...

Special thanks to the person who wrote this blog and for supporting James and other soldiers.

Did you ever meet him in person?

God Bless you for all you did for James. It meant so much to him.

Kelley said...

When I found out the news...today...I was shocked and so very sad.
James had a wonderful heart, a contagious laugh, and a wonderful family. I remember when he met my mother, who passed away in 2004...What a charmer he was.
There are times I remember spending time with his family and getting to know him as a person...I just can't believe he's gone.
I'm SO sorry Natalie. When he first met you, he told me all about you and how happy he was to finally meet someone so genuine.
My prayers and thoughts go out to you, Natalie and all the members of the Craig family. His memory will be forever cherished.

Cajun Tiger said...

Very moving and heartfelt tribute Gazer! I heard about the attack and casualties minutes after it happened and as always I paused for a few moments to pray for those involved and their families. You do an amazing job of showing what incredible men and women we have here!

Loumera said...

i don't have too good a memory of james but i'm here offering my condolences. we both attended the same high school i was only a freshman the year he graduated. as the daugther of a disabled vet i'm thankful for his service to the country and all my heartfelt smypathy thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
to the family just know that the lord will never put more on you than you can bare.

SCbelle20 said...

Thank you so much for your beautiful tribute to Jim. I was sobbing as I was reading it -- everything you said was so true. I hadn't actually seen Jim since we graduated high school together, but I have thought of him often as he is the only soldier I personally know who has been fighting in Iraq.

When thinking about Jim, the first thing that comes to mind is his immense love of God. He didn't walk the path -- he charged along it happily, so excited to be alive and so happy to share his faith with everyone. The boy I knew in school was so warm, kind, helpful, honorable, gregarious and funny -- the man he grew into was just the same.

The last time we wrote to each other was shortly before his marriage to Natalie. He was rapturously excited about his relationship with her, and so grateful to God for her presence in his life. He was also so proud of his service in the Army, and of his accomplishments in Iraq. He believed so completely in what he was doing there, and in how God was working in his life.

Jim was such a positive, caring person. I am so thankful that I got a chance to be a part of his life for a short while, and I am so appreciative of his sacrifice and his example in his relationship with God.

Despite what he said, Jim was a hero. I will miss him. His family and friends are in my thoughts and prayers.

Mike F. in Portland said...

I'm very sorry to hear of the loss of James Craig. Thanks for telling us a little about him.

American Interests said...

It pleases to see so many wonderful people expressing there thoughts and extending prayers for the loss of your friend.

Connie said...

How can I put what I feel into words, Jim was a hero, son, brother, husband, and to me a dear friend. I am blessed to have him in my life, he was like family. Our kids Trevor and Tasha loved to go the Craigs and spend time with Jim and the girls. I can still see Jim posing with his mom (Phylis) all ganster LOL while on vacation to Blain WA and Canada. He has been given the ultimate promotion, to GODS army.
My heart aches for Jim and his Family, but his faith has made me relize I am also a better person for knowing him. Love Always!

Donald Douglas said...

Your posts always move me close to tears, Flag Gazer.

Your work is treasured. Thanks for this, and bless your friend James in Heaven!!

camo said...

i loved workin for SGT. Craig i would do anything to still work for him....(top flight security of the world Craig) inside joke from 2nd PLT. Bravo company...1-8 INF R.I.P. Brother

Flag Gazer said...

Camo -
Thanks for your tributes to your friends... feel free to email (on my profile) if you need/want.

Also, I am still in contact with 1SG Joe House should you ever need contact info.