|From Bakersfield news bakersfield.com
Fallen son: Former Tehachapi man killed in Iraq
By HERB BENHAM | Sunday, May 24 2009 10:51 PM
Last Updated Sunday, May 24 2009 10:51 PM
Major Jason E. George, 38, was an Army Reservist assigned to the 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, Fayetteville, North Carolina. He died May 21, 2009 while serving in Iraq. Here he is pictured at his West Point graduation.
When he was close, he’d honk the horn twice. Then his parents would smile, look at each other and move toward the door. Jason was home. All was well again.
Last Thursday, Hugh and Candy Mason had a different kind of visitor at their beautiful home in Golden Hills, a part of Tehachapi that gets a cooling afternoon breeze from the Tehachapi Mountains.
They had just returned from Bakersfield and a visit with Candy’s father, who is dying of cancer. They had been home for half an hour sitting on their comfortable leather chairs sorting out the day when the doorbell rang. It was 9 p.m.
Standing at the door were two servicemen — one was a major and the other an Army chaplain. The men stood very still.
“We have some news ...”
Last Thursday, Maj. Jason E. George was killed in Baghdad while on foot patrol in the Dora district. A suicide bomber exploded an improvised explosive device and killed three American soldiers along with at least 25 Iraqi civilians.
Jason George was 38. He was a proud Tehachapi son. George had a room full of trophies. If there was a prize — academic or sporting — and George didn’t win it, his hot breath would be on your neck.
“Jason was balanced,” Hugh said. “He could do almost anything.”
Like mother, like son. That’s always been the case in the Mason household. Candy is a vocational instructor at the California Correctional Institution. She teaches inmates at Tehachapi how to use a computer, a calculator and do other sorts of office work.
“I Iove my job,” she said. “I don’t know for sure, but I’d like to think I make a difference. That’s the way Jason looked at his time in Iraq.”
George’s time in Iraq was short. He had flown into Kuwait on April 22. He had only been in Baghdad since May 5.
“It looks like I will be leading our civil/military operations as well as helping to bolster the local government and trying to stimulate the local economy,” George wrote on May 7 in his last e-mail to his parents. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to leverage some of my past experience as well as my MBA.”
He had something to leverage. His resume was thicker than one of his beloved Double-Doubles at In-N-Out. It was deeper than the Dodgers, his favorite baseball team — a team he was able to watch with his parents in early April when they played the Angels.
Growing up, George did what a lot of us only dreamed about — he won the Pinewood Derby. In high school, he had an internship with NASA at Edwards Air Force Base. George played tennis, baseball, soccer and basketball. As a senior at Tehachapi High, No. 22 kicked the winning field goal in the finals of the Desert Inyo League Championships. George was an Eagle Scout, and after a year at Cal State Bakersfield, he was appointed to West Point by then-U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas.
George was an undefeated boxer at West Point. After graduating, he served eight years. George left the service in 2002 and earned an MBA at the University of Michigan. Before being called up, George was working for a consulting firm in Chicago that specialized in health care, helping hospitals and clinics save money by becoming more efficient.
It is too early for either Hugh or Candy Mason to be philosophical. They still expect their son to walk through the door. Although they do not want to criticize the military, they are struggling with the idea that a major was on foot patrol. They just do not understand.
George sent both his mother and grandmother flowers on Mother’s Day. He worried about his terminally ill grandfather. In his last e-mail, he asked if he could help and make a call to the doctors who were in charge of his grandfather’s care. He finished every call with, “I love you Mom, I love you Dad.”
Thursday, Maj. Jason George will come home for good. When the Bakersfield National Cemetery opens later this summer, George will be buried there and it is possible that he will be the first. Until then, he must trust those he has left behind to honk twice when they find their way home.