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

Jason L Sparks

Monroeville, Ohio

September 8, 2004

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
19 Army Pfc

1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment

Camp Casey, Korea

Died in Fallujah, Iraq, when his platoon was engaged in direct fire. 
As a child, Scott Sparks said his son Jason was extremely outgoing and loved to ask for hugs by saying, "Big hug. Big hug." "Jason was a child who loved everyone he came into contact with. He didn''t have a shy bone in his body," Scott Sparks said. Sparks, 19, of Monroeville, Ohio, died Sept. 8, a week after arriving in Iraq, when his platoon was engaged in direct fire in Fallujah. Sparks played football and baseball in high school and helped coach a youth baseball team. Janet Gerber, a secretary at the school, remembered Sparks as being honest and straightforward. She said he often talked about serving his country. "That was top on his list," she said. "He felt very strong about it. If he were standing here today, he''d say he''d do it all over again." Sparks enlisted in February, went to South Korea in June and was stationed in Kuwait before leaving for Iraq. He is survived by his parents, Scott and Lisa Sparks.
 
Ohio soldier killed in Iraq

Associated Press

MONROEVILLE, Ohio — A soldier from the Sandusky area of northern Ohio has been killed in Iraq, family members said.

The military informed the family of Jason Sparks, 19, of Monroeville, about his death on Thursday, according to his aunt, Becky Sparks. She said the family hadn’t been notified about how he had died.

Family members told the Sandusky Register that he was killed in Iraq.

The military had no information on Sparks, an Army public affairs duty officer said early Friday, but said that, by law, the Pentagon must wait at least 24 hours after notifying the family of a death before making a public announcement.

“Jason was one of those good kids who never got into trouble,” Becky Sparks said early Friday. “He wanted to go into the military for quite a while.”

Sparks had worked at two fast-food restaurants in nearby Norwalk before enlisting in February, his aunt said.

Steve Ringholz, Monoroeville High School’s football coach, said he found out about Sparks’ death after practice Thursday evening.

Ringholz said Sparks played the offensive line as a senior at Monroeville.

“He was a great kid,” Ringholz said. “He always had a smile on his face.”

Sparks was featured in the Aug. 22 edition of the Stars and Stripes newspaper. In it, Sparks was reported to be serving with Company C, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, and training in Kuwait, a staging area for many troops headed to Iraq.
Funeral held for soldier killed one week after arriving in Iraq

MONROEVILLE, Ohio — A handmade sign reading “Jason is our hero” hung on the wall of a high school gymnasium where hundreds of people attended the funeral Thursday for a soldier killed in Iraq.

Pfc. Jason Sparks, 19, died Sept. 8, only a week after arriving in Iraq, when his platoon was engaged in direct fire in Fallujah, the Department of Defense said.

Sparks was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment. He enlisted in February, went to South Korea in June and was stationed in Kuwait before leaving for Iraq.

Sparks graduated from Monroeville High School, and students there were let out of classes at 1 p.m. Thursday so they could attend services in the gymnasium.

Scott Sparks said that as a child, his son was extremely outgoing and loved to ask for hugs by saying, “Big hug. Big hug.”

“Jason was a child who loved everyone he came into contact with. He didn’t have a shy bone in his body,” Scott Sparks said.

For about half an hour, members of the military walked up to Sparks’ casket and saluted.

“I do not believe that what happened to Jason was God’s will ... this was an all too human act, in an all too human world,” Pastor Wayne Chasney said.

Sparks worked at two fast-food restaurants in nearby Norwalk before enlisting. He also played football and baseball in high school and helped coach a youth baseball team.

After the funeral, a group of students wearing football jerseys rolled Sparks’ casket out of the gymnasium and into the hearse.

Monroeville residents lined state Route 20 to pay their respects as the procession drove through the town about 50 miles southeast of Toledo.

Sparks was buried in Riverside Cemetery, where a yellow ribbon was tied on a tree next to his grave.

Janet Gerber, a secretary at Monroeville High School, said she remembered Sparks as being honest and straightforward. She said he often talked about serving his country.

“That was top on his list,” she said. “He felt very strong about it. If he were standing here today, he’d say he’d do it all over again.”

— Associated Press
From The Blade toledoblade.com 09/17/04:

'He was our hero,' soldier's father eulogizes
BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROEVILLE, Ohio - More than 1,000 people crowded into the Monroeville High School gymnasium yesterday to pay tribute to a fallen soldier eulogized by his father as "our hero."

Army Pfc. Jason L. Sparks, 19, who received his high school diploma in the same gymnasium 14 months ago, was killed Sept. 8 when his unit came under fire in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, a center of resistance to U.S. forces.

Speaking to the hushed crowd in his dark blue Ohio Air National Guard uniform, Scott Sparks saluted his son as a brave soldier who willingly risked his life to help bring freedom to Iraq.

Mr. Sparks, a member of the 179th Airlift Wing who served with that unit in Kuwait last year, said

his son had no illusions about what military service could lead to when he enlisted in the Army seven months ago.

"Jason was well aware of the danger of his chosen profession, and he was determined to do his duty to his country," Mr. Sparks said.

He urged the crowd of family members, friends, military personnel, and students to remember servicemen in Iraq and other overseas deployments.

"He was honorably serving his country, as are so many of our servicemen and women," he said. "He did it right. We should also take time to support our troops all over the world with letters, care packages, and just notes to say thanks. Jason would have wanted it that way. He was our hero."

Finishing his eulogy, Mr. Sparks addressed his family.

"Most of all, I would like to thank my wife, Lisa, and my daughter, Sarah, for making his life so special."

Turning to his son's flag-draped casket, he added in a trembling voice, "Jason, we love you."

Mourners sniffled and stifled sobs as eight Monroeville football players, dressed in their black, gold-numbered jerseys, carried their former teammate's coffin out of the gymnasium.

During the hourlong service, Brig. Gen. Ron Young announced that Private Sparks had been honored with the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge for his service.

Private Sparks enlisted in the Army in February and trained in South Korea and Kuwait with Company C, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, before being deployed to Iraq on Sept. 2, less than a week before his death.

Dick Winslow, commander of American Legion Post 547 in Monroeville, repeated a tribute he read before last week's Monroeville High football game.

"Jason Sparks sacrificed his life recently in Iraq for the cause of freedom," Mr. Winslow said. "Jason rubbed shoulders with us. He was one of us."

After Mr. Winslow spoke, the crowd stood and saluted as the high school band played "The Star Spangled Banner."

The Rev. Wayne Chasney, pastor of Congregational Community United Church of Christ, read the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew's Gospel, and then tried to comfort the grieving crowd.

"If you leave here with nothing else today, I want you to leave with hope," he said. "Hope that Jason is in a better place, hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jason's sacrifice deserves no less."

Hundreds of mourners holding American flags and signs honoring Private Sparks lined U.S. 20, the main street through Monroeville, as his funeral procession rolled slowly past on the way to Riverside Cemetery.

There, members of the 179th Airlift Wing draped three U.S. flags over Private Sparks' casket, one at a time, then folded each into a dark blue triangle emblazoned with stars.

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