Sunday, May 28, 2006

Home Town Heroes: Wellsville dad visits site of son�s death |

Wellsville — Jim Butler heard the car pull onto a gravel lot next to his house just off Highway 33, about a mile and a half north of Wellsville.

“It was about 10:40 p.m. I was sitting here, watching TV,” he said, patting the gray-blue sectional in front of a big-screen television.

He was alone. His wife, Cindy, and Jim Jr., the oldest of their five grown sons, had gone to bed.

“I heard two car doors slam,” Butler said. “So I turned on the outside light and pretty soon there were these two uniformed officers — a lady chaplain and a gentleman — standing there.”

Butler, whose son Jake, a twin, was stationed in Iraq, opened the sliding glass patio door.

“Before they could say anything, I said, ‘Just tell me, is he hurt bad or is he dead?’” said Butler, who’s not known for mincing words.

“The lady chaplain sort of hung her head and said, ‘Is your wife here?’”

Army Sgt. Jake Butler, 24, was the first Kansas soldier killed in Iraq.

“The war started March 19,” Butler said. “He died April 1, 2003[snip]

A calvary scout, Jake was sent to Kuwait in 1999, 2002 and again on March 2, 2003. Three weeks later, U.S. troops moved into Iraq. He was there.

“On the news, they said he was killed by an RPG — a rocket-propelled grenade,” Butler said. “But I had guys who were there tell me that’s not what happened.”

Butler said Jake’s unit had been sent to find out whether a bridge on the Euphrates River in As Samawa was sturdy enough for armored vehicles to drive across.

When they got there, Butler said, the lead Humvee was hit with an RPG fired from across the river. Jake’s Humvee pulled up beside the lead vehicle in an attempt to defend and rescue the wounded. At that point, Butler said, 25 Iraqi soldiers who had been hiding behind nearby berms opened fire on Jake’s vehicle.

“Basically, it was an ambush,” he said. “They had him on three sides.”

Army records — Butler insisted on seeing them — showed the door on Jake’s side of the Humvee was hit 14 times.

“Jake only got hit once, right here,” he said, pointing to a spot about an inch above and a little in front of his right ear.

“It came out here.” He pointed to a spot by his left ear.

“You can get the Internet still today and find stories that say Jake was killed by an RPG,” Butler said. “But that’s not what happened.”

Posthumously, Jake received Silver Star and Bronze Star medals and a Purple Heart. All three, along with Jake’s dress uniform, a dozen framed commendations, and the American flag that adorned his coffin, are displayed on a wall in the Butlers’ living room.

Mr. Butler made a promise to his son the last time he saw him that he would go to Iraq if his son was killed. He went October 10, 2003 to pay tribute.

You can read the rest of the story about his son, the Sergeant who brought his son's last letter and the tribute he paid to him on the bridge where he was killed by following this link:

Wellsville dad visits site of son�s death |

He had a few words about Cindy Sheehan and the government, but his final words speak for many of our men and women who have ever paid the final price for service to their country:

“That’s what people don’t understand,” Butler said. “Jake didn’t die for the government or the politicians, he died fighting for something he believed in — he believed in freedom. Those are two different things.”

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