Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

James Alan Justice

Grimes, Iowa

April 23, 2011

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
32 Army SSG

1st  Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment

Le Mars, Iowa

 Killed in Kapisa province, Afghanistan of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.

Staff Sgt. James Justice
June 30, 1978 - April 23, 2011

James Alan, son of Larry and Lillian (Gunnlaugsson) Justice, was born June 30, 1978 in Manning, Carroll County, IA. He lived with his family in Manilla. James was baptized on August 17, 1978 at Zion Lutheran Church in Manning with Larry and Jeanie Young serving as sponsors. Later he was confirmed at Trinity Lutheran Church in Manilla. James attended school in Manilla and while in high school enjoyed participating in football, baseball and track. In 1997 James graduated from Irwin-Kirkman-Manilla High School. He enlisted as an Infantryman in Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry, Iowa Army National Guard in September 1998 at Denison and completed Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Benning, GA in May 1999. James deployed to Operation Desert Spring (Kuwait) in 2001, the Multinational Force Observer peacekeeping mission (Sinai Peninsula, Egypt) in 2003-2004, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005-2006. He came from a proud family of patriots. A distant relative has documented that seven of James’ ancestors fought in the War of 1812 and eight fought in the Civil War, as well as many in other conflicts.

On April 17, 2009 James was united in marriage with Amanda Jo Sand at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Grimes. They made their home in Grimes and were the parents of one daughter. Prior to his mobilization to Afghanistan, he was employed full-time by the Iowa National Guard at Camp Dodge, Johnston. When not working with the Guard, he loved to spend time with his daughter and his dog Kinnick. He could often be found tinkering around the house and cooking for his family. James was an avid Iowa Hawkeye and Minnesota Vikings football fan. In his spare time, he liked to golf and hang-out with his friends, as well as work on tractors with his dad. James was a member of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Grimes and a lifetime member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3517 in Manning.

James volunteered for duty in Afghanistan in early 2011 to be with his unit because he loved his country and felt that is where he should be. After completing a routine security patrol at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, word was received of a downed OH-58 Kiowa helicopter in the neighboring Kapisa province north east of Kabul. James and some of his fellow soldiers from the Iowa Army National Guard’s Alpha Troop 1st Squadron 113th Cavalry boarded a UH 60 Black Hawk helicopter to rescue the two man crew of the downed helicopter. After their craft landed the group came under small arms fire. James was killed at the site on Saturday, April 23, 2011. He was 32 years, 9 months and 24 days of age. James was escorted home to Iowa from Dover AFB by OC Alan Schmeckpepper.

James is preceded in death by his grandparents Kenneth and Katherine Justice and Maynard and Nora Gunnlaugsson, brother-in-law Lyle Christensen, and aunt Alta and her husband Merlin Nulle.

He is survived by his wife Amanda Justice and three-year-old daughter Caydence Justice of Grimes; parents Larry and Lillian Justice of Manilla; brother Kenneth Justice of Manilla; sisters Denise Christensen of Manilla and Christina Lingle (Kevin) of Manilla; nephew Doug Ridgley (Sarah) of Omaha and their children Emirsann and Elliette; nieces: Stephanie Ahrenholtz (Justin) of Manilla; Jessica Lingle (Alisa) of Manilla; Katie Lingle of Manilla; Rebecca Lingle of Manilla; Tonya (Shane)Darnell of Elrino, OK and Jamie (Justin) Chronister of Elrino, OK; parents-in-law Bill and Sue Sand of Eau Claire, WI; brothers-in-law: Bob Buckli of Eau Claire, WI; Tim Buckli (Kacee) of Omaha, NE; sisters-in-law Amy Buckli-Loew (Clyde) of Chetek, WI; Annie Luer (Tony) of Fall Creek, WI; grandparents-in-law Archie and Carol Sand of Eau Claire, WI; aunts, uncle, other relatives and many friends.

Chaplain MAJ Gary Selof, Officiating 
Jessica Fine, Eulogy
Jeremy Vennink, Judy Erb, & Tyler Christianson, 
Remembrance Speakers

Music
“It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" ~ Boyz II Men 
“I Will Remember You” ~ Anya Paulette, Vocalist 
“Amazing Grace” ~ Bagpipes
"Proud to be an American" ~ Lee Greenwood

Casket Bearers
MAJ Jason Erb 
SGT Andrew Bauer 
SGT Robbie Rushton 
Doug Ridgley
SSG Phillip Edwards 
SSG Shane Pankonen 
SSG Nicholas Harvey 
SPC Matthew O’Connor

Interment with Military Honors at a later date
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
From Red Bull Rising redbullrising.com 04/24/11:

Iowa Red Bull Soldier Killed in Kapisa Province
Staff Sgt. James A. Justice, 32, of Grimes, Iowa, was killed approximately 10 a.m. Sat., April 23 when the helicopter-borne Quick Reaction Force (Q.R.F.) of which he was a member came under small-arms fire in Afghanistan's Kapisa Province. The small force had been attempting to secure the crash site of a 2-person OH-58 "Kiowa" scout helicopter assigned to another U.S. Army unit. Also injured in the attack was Spc. Zachary H. Durham, 21, of Des Moines. Both are members to Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment (1-113th Cav.), an Iowa National Guard unit headquartered in Camp Dodge, Johnston, Iowa.

The 1-113th Cav. is part of the 3,000-soldier deployment to Afghanistan of the Iowa National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT). As "Task Force Red Bulls," most of the 2-34th BCT is responsible for helping the Afghan government, military, and police secure the provinces of Parwan, Panjshir, and Laghman, as well as portions of others. Some units deployed with 2-34th BCT deployed have been assigned under other task forces and other provinces, but Kapisa is not one of them.

Coalition forces operating in Eastern Afghanistan, to include Task Force Red Bulls, are assigned under the active-duty Army's 101st Airborne Division, which operates as "Combined Joint Task Force-101" (C.J.T.F.-101). According to the CJTF-101 website, Kapisa Province is the responsibility of Task Force La Fayette, comprising French coalition forces.

According to Iowa National Guard officials at a Sunday night press conference at Camp Dodge, the Alpha Troop soldiers had earlier conducted a patrol in the Parwan security zone surrounding Bagram Air Field ("BAF"), when CJTF-101 requested soldiers to immediately secure a Kiowa scout helicopter that had made a "hard landing" in Kapisa Province. The cause of that landing is still under investigation. The Iowa soldiers were assigned the QRF mission because they were "readily available" at Bagram Air Field, said Iowa National Guard spokesman Col. Greg Hapgood.

While guard officials were unable to characterize either the type of weapons or the intensity of the attack that killed Justice and injured Durham, they did say that Justice died at the scene. After the QRF traveled from Bagram to the crash site via UH-60 "Blackhawk" helicopters, landed, and came under attack, "pathfinders" trained in establishing landing zones were dispatched from 101st Airborne Division and inserted into an area south of the crash site. Air Force pararescuemen were also dispatched and inserted near or onto the site.

According to Iowa guard officials, a U.S. Air Force A-10 "Warthog" and additional armed U.S. Army Kiowa helicopters arrived to eliminate the immediate enemy threat. Justice was reportedly killed and Durham wounded while moving off their landing zone, which at the time was considered "hot" and still under fire. Durham has since been evacuated to Craig Joint Theater Hospital, Bagram Air Field. His injuries were not specified by officials.

Justice is a 13-year veteran of the Iowa National Guard, and deployed to Afghanistan with the 2-34th BCT only last February. "One of his goals was to get on this deployment," said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Schaefer at Sunday evening's press conference. "He wanted to get into the fight." Prior to mobilization, he was employed full-time by the Iowa National Guard, and Schaefer had been his supervisor. Schaefer described Justice as level-headed, hard-working, and easy to talk with. "He had an ability to lead soldiers and have them follow."

Justice had previously deployed to Kuwait (2001), Egypt's Sinai Peninsula (2003-2004), and Iraq (2005-2006).

Justice is survived by his wife, Amanda Jo, and a 3-year-old daughter Caydence Lillian, of Grimes; his father and mother, Larry and Lillian Justice, brother Kenny Justice, sisters Denise Christensen and Christy (Kevin) Lingle of Manilla.

A family statement released via the Iowa National Guard reads in part:
James Alan Justice meant many things to every person he encountered. He was the funny best friend named "Juice" that could be counted on when needing to be cheered up; the uncle who always knew just what to say and when to hand out hugs; the son who was his parents' pride and joy; the father who loved his little girl more than anything in the world and couldn't wait to have more children; and the husband who loved to put a smile on his wife's face.
Funeral arrangements for Justice are pending.

Earlier this month, two other Iowa National Guard "Red Bull" soldiers were killed and others wounded in separate combat incidents, and in different Afghan provinces.
From NBC 13 WHO whotv.com 09/15/12:

OPERATION JUSTICE: Hero Workout For Fallen Soldier
POSTED 1:57 PM, SEPTEMBER 15, 2012, BY JANNAY TOWNE

A Grimes soldier killed in action last year was remembered Saturday. Operation Justice isn’t your typical tribute, but it honors SSG James Justice with a hero workout at CrossFit 515.

“It’s a workout program, constantly varied, functional movement performed at a high intensity,” explains owner Jaime Noyce.

Today’s workout included dead lifts, rope climbs, bear crawls, and running with a sandbag. The mission: do as many reps as you can in 20 minutes.

“Just glad someones out here remembering the fallen soldiers and supporting them in any way that they can. It’s a pretty big deal to come out and remember your fallen,” says Jessica Lingle.

Justice was her uncle. The 32-year-old was killed in Afghanistan when his unit came under enemy fire while trying to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter.

“You never forget about him. It’s just really great that people are out here,” says Lingle.

The 70 CrossFitters who signed up to work out are raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project.

“You always kinda feel during those workouts like you don’t know how you’re going to make it for those 20 minutes, but then you think about those people you’re memorializing and it doesn’t seem so bad all of a sudden,” says Leann Gudenkauf.

“We’re incredibly happy with the turnout. We didn’t know what to expect having never done something like this before, but I mean, the CrossFit community is great so we should have expected great things and that’s what we got,” says Noyce.

Before today’s event, CrossFit 515 had already raised $1300 for the Wounded Warrior Project. The gym should have a final donation count later this week.
From The Gazette thegazette.com 04/24/11:

Iowa soldier killed, another hurt in Afghanistan

Associated Press

JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — A soldier from Grimes has become the third Iowan to die this month in Afghanistan, military officials confirmed Sunday.

Staff Sgt. James Justice, 32, of Grimes, died Saturday of wounds suffered in an insurgent attack in Kapisa province, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Defense. His unit came under small arms fire.

Wounded in the attack was Spc. Zachary Durham, 21, of Des Moines. Both Soldiers were assigned to Troop A, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry, Camp Dodge, Johnston, Iowa.

Justice was among four deaths confirmed Sunday by military officials. Soldiers from Texas, New Jersey and New Mexico were killed Friday in Afghanistan.

"One thing James was to everyone was the ultimate soldier. He loved the military and he looked forward to every deployment," the Justice family said in a released statement. "While we were stunned and extremely saddened to learn of his tragic death, we all take solace knowing that James died doing what he loved best: serving his country beside the men and women he revered and trusted."

Judy Erb, whose son Jason was a close friend of Justice's, told The Des Moines Register that Justice welcomed helping others and enjoyed making people laugh.

"He would have never thought for a moment about helping someone out. He would always just jump in," Erb said.

She added, "He's a hero, just like all those other boys over there."

The attack that killed Justice and injured Durham happened during a rescue operation of a U.S. Army helicopter crew who were injured when their aircraft made a hard landing. Justice and Durham responded to the scene as members of a Quick Reaction Force and came under fire from enemy forces at the crash site, according the military.

Justice died at the scene and Durham was evacuated for medical treatment. No additional information is available regarding Durham’s condition or medical status.

"The outpouring of support and prayers during this time from friends, fellow soldiers and strangers alike has been astonishing, but proved what we all knew: that James was a one-of-a-kind guy and deeply loved by all who had the opportunity to know him and serve with him," the Justice family statement said.

About 2,800 Iowa soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan. Justice was the third killed there in recent weeks, and several others were hurt.

Spc. Brent Maher, 31, of Honey Creek, died when the vehicle in which he was a gunner was hit by the bomb April 11 in Paktia province. Three other soldiers were wounded in the attack. All four soldiers were with the 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry based in Shenandoah.

A few days later, on April 13, Spc. Donald Nichols, 31, of Shell Rock, was killed and another Iowa soldier injured in a similar incident in Laghman province. Both were members of the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry based in Wahoo.

Funerals for Maher and Nichols were held in Iowa during the past few days.
CAMP DODGEJOHNSTON, IOWAApril 24, 20119 P.M.
IOWA NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN

The Iowa National Guard regrets to announce the death of Staff Sgt. James A. Justice, 32, of Grimes, Iowa. Justice was killed by enemy small arms fire during combat operations on Saturday,April 23, in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan at approximately 10 a.m., local Afghanistan time.Wounded in the attack was Spc. Zachary Durham, 21, of Des Moines, Iowa. Both Soldiers wereassigned to Troop A, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry, Camp Dodge, Johnston, Iowa.The attack happened during rescue operations of a U.S. Army OH-58 helicopter crew who wereinjured when their aircraft made a hard landing in Alah Say District, Kapisa Province,Afghanistan. Justice and Durham responded to the scene as members of a Quick Reaction Force
(“QRF”) and came under fire fro
m enemy forces at the crash site. Justice died at the scene andDurham was evacuated to Craig Joint Theater Hospital, Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan for
medical treatment. No additional information is available regarding Durham’s condition or 
medical status. The cause of the helicopter crash is unknown at this time and under investigation.James A. Justice was born June 30, 1978 in Manning, Iowa and graduated from Irwin-Kirkman-Manilla High School in 1997. Justice enlisted as an Infantryman in Company C, 1st Battalion,168th Infantry, Iowa Army National Guard in September 1998 at Denison, Iowa and completedBasic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Benning, Ga. in May 1999. Hepreviously deployed to Operation Desert Spring (Kuwait) in 2001, the Multinational ForceObserver peacekeeping mission (Sinai Peninsula, Egypt) in 2003-2004, and Operation IraqiFreedom in 2005-2006.Prior to his mobilization, he was employed full-time by the Iowa NationalGuard at Camp Dodge, Johnston, Iowa.Justice was part of the approximately 2,800 members of the 2
nd
Brigade Combat Team, 34thInfantry Division deployed to Afghanistan. These Iowa Soldiers reported to their mobilizationstation at Camp Shelby, Miss. in July 2010 for additional training and preparation beforedeparting for the Afghanistan theater of operations. The unit arrived in Afghanistan in November2010, where the Soldiers provide full-spectrum operations in a combat theater, including lethaland non-lethal capabilities, support to Afghan National Army and Police units, and assistance tohumanitarian relief initiatives.


IOWA NATIONAL GUARD
Page 2 of 2
Mission Focused

Warrior Ready 
IOWA NATIONAL GUARD
Mission Focused

Warrior Ready 
He is survived by his wife, Amanda Jo, and daughter, Caydence Lillian, of Grimes; his father andmother, Larry and Lillian Justice, brother Kenny Justice, sisters Denise Christensen and Christy(Kevin) Lingle, nieces Stephanie (Justin) Ahrenholtz, Jessica Lingle, Katie Lingle and BeccaLingle, all of Manilla; nephew Doug (Sarah) Ridgley and great-nieces, Emiry and Elli Ridgley,all of Omaha; his dog, Kinnick; and a myriad of friends and family. Justice was preceded in deathby his maternal grandparents, Maynard and Nora Gunnlaugsson; paternal grandparents, Kennethand Katie Justice; and his best buddy, his dog Kado.The family of Staff Sgt. James A. Justice issued the following statement:
“James Alan Justice meant many things to every person he encountered. He was the funny best 
friend named "Juice" that could be counted on when needing to be cheered up; the uncle whoalways knew just what to say and when to hand out hugs; the son who was his parents pride and joy; the father who loved his little girl more than anything in the world and couldn't wait to havemore children; and the husband who loved to put a smile on his wife's face. One thing James wasto everyone was the ultimate soldier. He loved the military and he looked forward to everydeployment. While we were stunned and extremely saddened to learn of his tragic death, we alltake solace knowing that James died doing what he loved best: serving his country beside themen and women he revered and trusted.Through his four tours of duty, James had many accomplishments but above all, he made life-long friendships. The outpouring of support and prayers during this time from friends, fellowSoldiers and strangers alike has been astonishing, but proved what we all knew: that James wasa one-of-a-kind guy and deeply loved by all who had the opportunity to know him and serve withhim. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Iowa National Guard for theopportunities they have provided to James over the past 13 years. Additionally, we would like toacknowledge all of his fellow Iowa National Guard Soldiers both at home and serving overseas. May God be with you always.We are sure that you can understand and will honor our request for family privacy at this time, aswe are focused on working with military officials to return James' body home for military serviceand burial. We thank you for your thoughts, prayers and kindness at this extremely difficult time.We are deeply saddened by our loss, but extremely proud of the honorable way he served America as a leader in the U.S. Army. We will remember him, his strength, his infectious sense of humor, his faith in God, and his love for his family, friends and country w
ith great pride.”

Funeral arrangements are pending and details will be provided as they become available. TheJustice family asks that their privacy be respected at this time. Media representatives may contactthe Iowa National Guard Public Affairs Office for additional information.-----
 

1 Iowan killed, 1 injured in attack in Afghanistan

By Tyler O'Neil

The Des Moines (Iowa) Register

An Iowa National Guard soldier from Grimes died in combat April 23 while trying to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. James A. Justice, 32, is the third Iowan to perish this month in the 9-year-old war. He volunteered to go on this deployment. A soldier from Des Moines, Spc. Zachary Durham, 21, was injured.

Their unit returned from a patrol early April 23 and found out two people aboard a reconnaissance and light attack helicopter had made a hard landing and needed help, Iowa National Guard Col. Gregory Hapgood said at a news conference April 24 in Johnston, Iowa.

The Iowans’ rescue team came under fire shortly after landing, and both soldiers were hit by small-arms fire about 10 a.m. Afghan time. Justice died at the scene but Durham was evacuated.

The incident took place in the Alah Say district of Kapisa province, not far from Kabul, the capital, officials said.

Durham is at a hospital at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. His condition was not available.

“I think if you look anywhere in that Pakistan border area right now, it doesn’t matter which province you’re in, there is a lot of activity,” Hapgood said. “When that helicopter went down, certainly that would be a magnet for insurgents to have an opportunity to kill Americans.”

Justice was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, based in Le Mars.

Sgt. Kevin Schaefer worked with Justice at Camp Dodge. Schaefer described him as a charismatic, natural leader and an integral part of his unit’s community. Schaefer said Justice was always quick to make a joke.

“He had such a quick wit that he would insert a joke and it would take you two minutes before you realized he was making fun of you,” Schaefer said. “He was a rare breed.”

Justice also had a passion for the Guard, Schaefer said. Despite having served his fair share overseas, Justice always felt as though he was being left behind when he was in the states. So, when the 113th Cavalry was in need of an experienced NCO, Justice jumped at the opportunity, Schaefer said.

“He always wanted to get back into the fight,” Schaefer said.

A close family friend said that Justice loved helping others and making them happy.

“He was honorable — you know that from the way he died,” said Judy Erb, a friend of the Justice family. “He’s a hero, just like all those other boys over there.”

Justice, who was married with a 3-year-old daughter, is the third member of the Iowa Guard in Afghanistan to be killed this month.

Erb said she met Justice when he became friends with her son, Jason, in high school. Her son was one year older than Justice, but the boys became inseparable, “like brothers,” she said.

Both played on the football team for IKM-Manning, with Justice as a receiver and Jason Erb as a tight end and lineman. Justice grew up in Manilla and enjoyed the horseshoes competition at the annual town festival and late-night parties with friends, Erb said.

Erb and Justice remained best friends after graduating from high school in 1996 and 1997. Both were drawn to the military, and Jason Erb became an Air Force pilot.

“They have an Air Force tradition where when you get your pilot’s wings, you don’t put them on, you break them in half,” Judy Erb said. The pilot keeps one half and gives the other half to his best friend. Justice received half of Jason Erb’s wings.

His mother said Jason is trying to fly back from his deployment in South Korea to be at Justice’s funeral and reunite the two pieces.

Justice was unable to attend Jason Erb’s wedding — he was deployed in Iraq at the time — but he served as the honorary best man from overseas. When Justice married last April, Jason Erb was his best man.

Justice had a jovial spirit and often found it difficult to be serious because he loved making others laugh, Erb said. Erb said he volunteered for a deployment to Afghanistan even though he was given an opportunity to stay behind.

“He would have never thought for a moment about helping someone out, he would always just jump in,” Erb said.

Justice’s parents, Lillian and Larry, still live in Manilla. His wife, Amanda, and 3-year-old daughter, Caydence, live in Grimes in central Iowa, Erb said.

Justice’s family issued this statement through the Guard:

“James Alan Justice meant many things to every person he encountered. He was the funny best friend named “Juice” that could be counted on when needing to be cheered up; the uncle who always knew just what to say and when to hand out hugs; the son who was his parents’ pride and joy; the father who loved his little girl more than anything in the world and couldn’t wait to have more children; and the husband who loved to put a smile on his wife’s face. One thing James was to everyone was the ultimate soldier. He loved the military and he looked forward to every deployment. While we were stunned and extremely saddened to learn of his tragic death, we all take solace knowing that James died doing what he loved best: serving his country beside the men and women he revered and trusted.

“Through his four tours of duty, James had many accomplishments but above all, he made lifelong friendships. The outpouring of support and prayers during this time from friends, fellow Soldiers and strangers alike has been astonishing, but proved what we all knew: that James was a one-of-a-kind guy and deeply loved by all who had the opportunity to know him and serve with him. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Iowa National Guard for the opportunities they have provided to James over the past 13 years. Additionally, we would like to acknowledge all of his fellow Iowa National Guard soldiers both at home and serving overseas. May God be with you always.

“We are sure that you can understand and will honor our request for family privacy at this time, as we are focused on working with military officials to return James’ body home for military service and burial. We thank you for your thoughts, prayers and kindness at this extremely difficult time. We are deeply saddened by our loss, but extremely proud of the honorable way he served America as a leader in the U.S. Army. We will remember him, his strength, his infectious sense of humor, his faith in God, and his love for his family, friends and country with great pride.”

About 2,800 Iowa National Guard troops deployed to eastern Afghanistan last fall. The three men killed this month are the first casualties, although several soldiers have sustained serious injuries.

Sgt. Brent Maher, 31, of Honey Creek died April 11 when a bomb blew up under the armored truck in which he was riding during a patrol near the city of Gardez in eastern Afghanistan. Spc. Donald Nichols, 21, of Shell Rock was killed April 13 in Laghman province when his armored truck was hit by a bomb in the road.

This is the first time since 2005 that three members of the military from Iowa have been killed overseas in as few as 13 days. Two guardsmen and an Army soldier died in Iraq over the course of 10 days in February and March that year.

From The DesMoines Register desmoinregister.com 05/04/11:

Childhood friend recalls fallen guardsman

By Tony Leys
The Des Moines (Iowa) Register

MANNING, Ia. — James Justice’s best friend ended his eulogy on May 4 by asking the audience to send a message to the 2,800 other Iowa guardsmen serving in the area of Afghanistan where Justice was killed.

“Tell them we are thinking about them. Tell them to come home safe. Tell them to do their job and do it with honor, and to just finish their job over there,” Jason Erb said. “Don’t let James’ death go in vain. Don’t let any of their deaths go in vain.”

Justice, 32, of Grimes, was a staff sergeant in the Guard’s 1-113th Cavalry Squadron. He was killed in a firefight with insurgents April 23 while his unit tried to rescue crew members of an Army helicopter that had crash-landed. It was the third Iowa National Guard death in Afghanistan in less than a month.

Erb, an Air Force major, grew up with Justice in the small town of Manilla. He recalled his friend as a fun-loving, prank-pulling kid. Justice was a die-hard Hawkeye fan who gave Erb endless grief for joining Iowa State University’s football team. Erb recalled giving home-game tickets to his friend, who would promptly buy a T-shirt for whichever team was playing the Cyclones that day. “Not only would he not root for Iowa State. He would root for the opposing team, while sitting in the parents’ section,” Erb recalled to the knowing laughter from more than 1,000 people who packed the funeral in the IKM-Manning High School gym.

Justice joined the Guard in 1998, and was deployed to Kuwait, Egypt and Iraq. He was held back last summer from the current deployment to Afghanistan because of back trouble, but he volunteered to rejoin his comrades this spring when his cavalry troop ran short of sergeants. He had been in Afghanistan for just a few weeks before his death.

Hundreds of people waited in line for a half-hour or more to get into the gym. Near the school doors, they passed members of Justice’s cavalry unit who were holding a horse, with a rifle in a saddle scabbard and a pair of boots placed backward in the stirrups.

Inside the school before the funeral, the soldier lay in an open casket, complete with a picture of the boy he used to be. The mourners included scores of soldiers and veterans in uniform, plus Gov. Terry Branstad.

Survivors include Justice’s wife, Amanda, and their 3-year-old daughter, Caydence.

Jessica Fine, a friend of the couple, said James and Amanda were both stubborn, passionate people who had dramatic arguments, then would send tear-inducing love notes to each other on Facebook.

He also loved to spend time with his daughter, Fine said.

“Most guys would not be successful at spending all day playing with a little girl interested in makeup, sparkles or anything Barbie,” she said. “James, on the other hand, let go of his soldier instincts to just say no to everything pink and embraced his girly side.”

Fine said Justice was proud of his service but preferred to be known as a regular guy.

“He died serving the country that he loved,” Fine said. “And I can’t wait until the day when I can tell Caydence about what a hero and honorable man her daddy really was.”

Friend Jeremy Vennink recalled James as a magnetic, outgoing person. The two of them could walk into a bar where they didn’t know anyone, “and when we left, he’d have 10 new friends — or four new enemies,” Vennink joked. “It was one way or the other, every time.”

Maj. Gary Selof, a Guard chaplain, told the mourners that there is no explaining the sudden death of a young person like Justice.

“Everything inside of us wants to scream, ‘No, it’s not supposed to be this way! He’s supposed to live to be 90 and have great-grandchildren bouncing on his knee, and then die at a ripe old age,’ ” Selof said. “But that wasn’t meant to be. ... I wish I could stand here today and tell you that if James didn’t go to Afghanistan, he would be alive today. But I don’t know that.”

At the end of the service, military members came forward in pairs to solemnly salute the casket. Then five Guard soldiers and Erb, the Air Force major, wheeled their friend out to a waiting hearse.

Burial will be later at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

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