Friday, January 28, 2011

Remembering James Craig

Remembering my friend - Three years gone


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."

" 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: