<\body> Stories in America: Soldier, 22, Dies: "I Feel Like We're Fighting Ghosts"

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Soldier, 22, Dies: "I Feel Like We're Fighting Ghosts"

From the SF Chronicle:
Pfc. James Coon was under consideration for a Bronze Star after risking his own life in an attempt to save two wounded Army buddies after their unit was hit by a bomb in Iraq. Now, the honor would have to be awarded posthumously.
Coon, 22, who grew up in Walnut Creek, died in Balad, Iraq, on Wednesday after an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

His death came less than three weeks after his unit was hit by a pair of bombs as it returned from a patrol in Baghdad. On March 15, he ran from his vehicle without protection or a weapon and put tourniquets on two wounded soldiers, but they and four others in the unit died.

"It really disturbed him," his stepmother, Marie Coon, 46, whom Coon considered his mother, said Friday.

In an e-mail to his family a day after the incident, her son wrote, "Everyone is calling me a hero, but all I did was what I thought was right. I wanna come home so bad. I don't wanna play Army any more." But he added, "Ima do what I have to do to stay alive out here, but if I have to, I will risk everything for my buddies out here." Even before then, Coon had told his mother that he didn't believe the military presence was "doing a lot of good," she said.

Coon, a 2003 graduate of Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek, enlisted in the Army before his 21st birthday and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. He was deployed to Iraq in October.

"I'm very proud of my son," said Jim Coon, 49. "I would like everybody to support our troops." But he added, "I don't support the government and what they're doing with this war. I don't believe the war is right."

Coon said his son recently told him about what he regarded as an unseen enemy: "Dad, I feel like we're fighting ghosts. There's nobody out there to fight."

The couple spoke at their Walnut Creek home Friday as their son's beloved rottweiler, Tyson, sat at their feet. When two Army officials came Wednesday to notify the family about their son's death, Jim Coon said he began shouting and crying, "No, this ain't happening." The dog, who has "not a mean bone in his body," growled menacingly at the men, Jim Coon said.


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