A Soldier Committed to the End
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
On July 19, a young Army staff sergeant from California was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Baghdad. Friends say 29-year-old Jason Evey had doubts about the mission in Iraq, but remained a committed solider. Now, his parents are struggling to reconcile their respect for their son's sacrifice in a war they strongly oppose.
NPR's John McChesney reports.
JOHN McCHESNEY reporting:
Sergeant Jason Evey was in love with the western wilderness. Perhaps that's why his father, John Evey, chose to talk about Jason in Torrey Pines State Park, on the southern California coast, near where he works for the Scripps Oceanographic Institution. We sat on the trunk of a fallen pine tree as Evey described his son's love for another beautiful spot, the Oregon woods where Jason grew up.
Mr. JOHN EVEY (Father, Sergeant Jason Evey): He would go wandering in those woods, sometimes with friends but often even alone, and he would come back and say I discovered where the deer slept. And he was constantly bringing snakes home with him, much to his mother's consternation.
McCHESNEY: Sergeant Evey's mother, Biata, declined to be interviewed but sent a letter she wrote to her son just after his deployment to Iraq last November. In it, she said, “you know, I hate the thought of you being touched by this needless war. Know that I am so very proud of you, of the serious dedication you give to your work.”
Mr. EVEY: Jason was not a political person.
McCHESNEY: Again, John Evey.
Mr. EVEY: He did say to us before he went to Iraq, before he was deployed last November, that he didn't feel and that he knew of other soldiers who didn't feel that this was a combat in which our country should be engaged. He didn't talk about that again.
McCHESNEY: But, John Evey says, Jason was enthusiastic about his career in the Army. He'd reenlisted just before his deployment and he knew when he did that he would most likely go to Iraq. One of Jason Evey's best friends in the Army was Sergeant Darren Barnes.
Sergeant DARREN BARNES (U.S. Army): I think if I had to use one word, I would say perfectionist for Jason. He was just the epitome of what the military would want a soldier to be. And I know that when I say that, some people will get the image in their mind of, you know, a brainwashed killing machine.
McCHESNEY: Sergeant Barnes says that's not what the Army wants. Instead, he says, what the Army wants is a person who can command the respect of his men.
Sergeant BARNES: When, you know, it comes down to it and you really have to do some hard fighting, you're not fighting for any real cause, you're fighting for the guy next to you. And Jason, above anything, had the trust of every single soldier, not only in his platoon, but that he ever met. And I honestly know that for a fact.
McCHESNEY: Jason Evey's mother and father are trying to find a balance between their disagreement with the war in Iraq and respect for their son's sense of duty as a soldier.
Mr. EVEY: At the same time, you know, Biata and I feel so strongly about - in our sense of respect for the young people who are there, whatever their beliefs, serving in the military, because they're in incredible situations, and we don't want to suggest in any way that they are anything but outstanding representatives of our country, one they serve with honor and dedication.
McCHESNEY: Staff Sergeant Jason Evey's ashes have scattered in one of his favorite spots in Oregon.
John McChesney, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.