|SGT. Benjamin J. Laymon, age 22, of Mount Vernon, died Saturday, June 24, 2006 as a result of an IED explosion while serving his country in South Baghdad, Iraq.
Benjamin was born on November 15, 1983 in Mount Vernon. He was a 2002 graduate of Mount Vernon High School where he played varsity football. He enlisted into the Army in September 2002 and received his basic training at Fort Jackson, S. Carolina. Following basic training, he received advanced infantry training in Fort Sill, Oklahoma and paratrooper training at Fort Benning, Georgia. In January 2003 he reported to Fort Hood, Texas where he was assigned to the 3 -16th attached to Task Force Ironhorse 4th Infantry Division and received his deployment orders to Iraq for his first tour of duty in March 2003. Following his tour of duty he returned to Fort Hood in March 2004. Ben was promoted to sergeant that spring and also received training on the Bradley fighting vehicle before returning for his second tour of duty in Iraq in November 2005.
He is survived by his mother and step-father Gale (David) Harstine and father James Laymon (Kathy) both of Mount Vernon, three brothers Trevor (Jennifer) Purdy of Mount Vernon, Curt Purdy (Laura) of Columbus and Andrew Laymon of Mount Vernon, maternal grandmother Loretta Wiseman and paternal grandmother Irene Fowler both of Mount Vernon, Aunts Beverly (James) Sivits of Gambier, Pat (John) Scott and Judy Fowler both of Mount Vernon and Judy (Bob) Tubbs of Williamsburg, VA, Uncles Ronald (Candy) Laymon of Mount Vernon, Richard (Shirley) Laymon of Newark and George (Jeane) Fowler of Gambier, special friend Jessica Frazee of Columbus and several nieces, nephews and cousins
He was preceded in death by a maternal grandfather Roy Wiseman, paternal grandfather Howard Laymon and uncle Bob Fowler.
Ben will be sadly missed by family and friends, but long remembered for his fun-loving spirit and his love for children.
Family will receive friends on Sunday from 2-6PM at the First Christian Church(Disciples of Christ), 110 E. Vine Street, Mount Vernon, Ohio 43050. Where funeral services will be held on Monday at 11:00AM with Pastor Jamie Gump officiating. Burial will be in Moundview Cemetery with Military Honors.
The North-Dilley Funeral Home of Mount Vernon is handling of the arrangements
Memorial Contributions may be made in Ben's name to Mount Vernon Schools Athletic Dept., 300 Newark Road, Mount Vernon, Ohio 43050
MOUNT VERNON — The death of Sgt. Benjamin J. Laymon is a chilling reminder to many of the high cost of freedom and the everyday activities many take for granted.
It was obvious to many, including his former football coaches, that Laymon was destined for a career in the military. Whether it was on the field, in the classroom or in everyday activities, Laymon exhibited the passion and dedication that is demanded of a soldier.
“Having Benny, which is what we called him, having him on this team, it is no surprise he became a soldier,” said former Mount Vernon High School head football coach Brian Gastin. “He was a kid who would work. He let his actions speak louder than his words. When he had decided he was going to go into the Army, it was no shock to me whatsoever. He was a prototypical soldier. He could take orders, never question them and carry them out to the fullest extent.
“Honestly, the first thing that ran through my mind was that we are speaking of a tragedy, but this was something he was fully equipped to do. This was his life and this was who he was.”
“Ben was the type of kid who put others before himself,” said then-defensive coordinator Scott Spitler. “He thought it was his duty to serve his country, and put his country before himself. That’s what he was doing. I believe he was on his second tour of duty. He was very unselfish and always thought of the other person. It is unfortunate that something like this has happened to such a great young man.”
Laymon was also a good teammate and friend.
“He was the type of guy everybody got along with,” former teammate Chad Biddle said. “He was always the center of attention, even when he wasn’t trying to be. He was just an all-around, down-to-earth good guy.”
Friend Joe Armstrong said Laymon had a great sense of humor.
“He was always making everyone laugh. He was hysterical,” said Armstrong. “He was a real good friend. He had a lot of friends.”
The two hung out and played football together at Mount Vernon and talked just a few weeks ago.
“He loved being in the Army. That was all he ever talked about,” Armstrong said. “He was my best friend ... the best friend anyone could ever have.”
On the football field, Laymon may not have been the most skilled, but what he lacked in athleticism, he made up for in heart.
“He was the type of player who, initially, was a great role player,” Spitler said. “About his junior year, he made the determination to make himself better in every aspect — strength-wise and conditioning-wise. He turned himself into a starter. He spent a lot of time in the weight room and he did extra speed training at a facility in Columbus. He actually became a pretty darn good football player for us on the defensive line. He was a very coachable kid. He always put his team and teammates first. He was one of those coaching favorites — a guy who doesn’t say a whole lot, but does what it asked of him.”
“What he lacked in athleticism, he made up for with his attitude,” Biddle said.
His willingness to go the extra mile is something that will always stand out to Gastin.
“He did whatever we asked,” Gastin said. “I’d say, ‘Benny, I need you to play left tackle. Benny, I need you to play right tackle. Benny, I need you to play defense.’ And no matter what, he would do it. He never questioned it. He absolutely followed orders to a tee because he understood that we would not ask him if we didn’t need him to do it. That’s my greatest memory of him — his willingness to do absolutely anything, whether he had tried it before or not. He always gave 1,000 percent.”
The traits Laymon showed on the football field carried over into his personal life once his playing day were over. The friendships he made with his teammates were bonds not quickly broken.
“I talked with him every once in a while,” Biddle said. “As soon as we graduated, he went into active duty and he was always gone. I talked with him over the Internet and on the phone. When he came home on leave, we got together and hung out.
“I talked with him over the Internet a few days ago,” said Biddle. “This just makes you realize how close to home it really is.”
In a time where uncertainty often rules, Laymon knew what he wanted from life and he knew the price he would have to pay to achieve it.
“He had prepared himself for years by the way he lived his life,” Gastin said. “This was truly his calling in life. This is what he wanted to do. He understood the risks.
“There are people in life that their lives are cut short, but they have truly lived. That was Benny. Some people live to be 90, but have never really lived. They have never done their true calling. Even though Benny only lived 22 years on this earth, he truly lived. He did what he was supposed to do with his life.”
“I think he felt he was meant to be there,” Biddle said. “His attitude was so that he didn’t want to be anywhere else. He believed in what he was doing.”
In the end, Laymon made the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life for what he believed. He also gave his life for what he loved.
“We live in a cruel world and his death is a reminder of that,” Gastin said. “It takes people like Benny to go to those places and give their lives to make certain that we will always have the freedom to play our games and do the things we want to back home. The reason we can sit here, play our games and do what we want to is because Benny went over there and sacrificed the greatest thing we have, which is our life.”
He stood for me and my family and friends...likewise I will stand for him and those who knew and loved him.
"The world's a little poorer, for a soldier died today. He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife, For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life. Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way, And the world won't note his passing, though a soldier died today. When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state, but the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung ...It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys. If we cannot do him honor while he's here to hear the praise, then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say, Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today." -- A. Lawrence Vancourt, 1987
MOUNT VERNON — At 6 feet tall and 230 pounds, his family called him “Gentle Ben.” He was the light in a room, an empathizer, a jokester and a problem solver. Gentle Ben, aka Sgt. Benjamin Laymon, 22, of Mount Vernon was killed Saturday in Iraq as a result of an IED explosion. On Wednesday, his family gathered to share Ben’s life, finding solace in the many cards, letters and messages from Ben’s friends.
Although he was important to his family, neither of his parents realized how important he was to so many people.
“The messages that have come through the funeral home’s Web site have been incredible. He had a lot of friends,” said his father, Jim Laymon.
“He liked to laugh. He was the kind of friend who could make all of your troubles go away. He always put people in front of himself, always listening to what everyone else had to say. He is everybody’s hero. He just wanted you to be happy,” said Jessica Frazee, a close friend since middle school.
“He was the easiest boy to mother. He was so sweet and considerate,” said his mother, Gale Harstine.
“He was the type of kid who would call if he was going to be late because he didn’t want you to worry,” said David Harstine, his stepfather.
“With him, and his brother, Andrew, I never had to raise my voice. They were just good kids,” said Jim Laymon.
Ben liked being around his family, especially his six nieces and nephews.
“He loved children. I always thought he would be a great teacher for younger children,” said his mother Gale.
“You ought to see Ben at 6 feet, 230 pounds going down a slippery slide. It was a real sight,” said David.
Although he was gentle, he could be hard-headed sometimes.
“When he was about 14 or 15, he didn’t want to stack the wood we had cut. But we told him he was going to do it. Well, it took him four or five days to do a job that would have taken a few hours just because he simply didn’t want to do it. We took his picture in front of the wood stack after he finished it because it had been such a big deal,” said David.
Ben also loved his pizza, chicken wings, steak and french fries.
“That boy could eat pizza seven days a week but wouldn’t touch a fruit or vegetable. Sometimes he would eat broccoli, but only if it was covered in cheese sauce,” said David.
“When I would make a casserole, I would go to the refrigerator to get a package of cheese I knew was in there, only to find it gone. Ben would beat me to it,” said Gale.
Few can talk about Laymon without bringing up his funny antics and love of pranks.
“He was the class clown,” said Jessica.
“One time he set our alarm clocks for 3 a.m. and then stayed up to make sure they went off. Then he just laughed and laughed,” said David.
There are stories of him dressing up in funny outfits and attending the high school basketball games. He often dressed up as Chris Farley’s motivation speaker character, Matt Foley.
“He could do Chris Farley to a tee,” said Gale. “He dressed up like Matt Foley and went to a basketball game. Another time he talked Joey Armstrong into dressing up like hunters, and they went to the game in hunting gear with these bright orange hats with ear flaps.”
Sometime during his sophomore year of high school he began to become more serious, starting with football.
According to coaches and family members, Ben took additional training and workouts to land him a starting position on the Mount Vernon High School football team. That was really important to him.
In junior high, Ben said he wanted his future to include the military.
“He tunneled into the Army, not wanting to look at any other branch. He wanted combat,” said David.
His family said Ben’s favorite movies included “Platoon,” “Full Metal Jacket” and “Rocky.”
“He loved movies about the competitive underdog,” said his mother.
Ben was on his second tour in Iraq when he died. On his first tour in 2003, he was trained as a gunner on a Humvee. On his second tour, which began last November, Ben served as a sergeant and spent some time training Iraqi soldiers in the southern part of the country.
“In his calls and e-mails home he would always say, ‘don’t listen to the news, don’t worry, I’ll be fine,’” said Gale.
“He never conveyed fear to us. He said he was well trained and able to care of himself,” added David.
Ben was making plans for the time his tour would be over in November.
“He wanted to become a Columbus police officer. His testing was on hold until he got back,” said Gale.
“Because of his training he wanted to be on the swat team,” said his father, Jim.
Frazee said he was also thinking about being a police officer in Iraq for a few years, because of the lucrative salary and to build a nest egg.
According to his parents, Ben liked being in Iraq because of the challenges and freedom to do his job compared to everyday life on a base stateside.
His family often sent pictures, Stephen King novels, T-shirts and socks, beef jerky and even bedding from home.
In recent weeks his troop moved into South Baghdad, where there is heavy fighting and a high alert for roadside bombs. Ben was part of a forward observer unit for artillery.
“One of the last times we talked I told him to be sure to take care of himself, and he said, ‘Mom, I’m trying.’ That was different than the other times we had talked,” said Gale.
Frazee received e-mails from Ben’s friends in Iraq, including one from a nurse who was with Ben when he died. She wrote:
“I had met Sgt. Laymon a number of times. My husband, Adam Ropelewski, was his platoon leader for a year and Ben was his gunner in his vehicle. They spent a lot of time together and Adam always had funny stories to tell about their time together. I remember meeting Ben and him talking about getting out of the army and becoming a cop. Well, I am a nurse here in Iraq and I wanted to let you know that I was with Ben in his final moments. I held his hand while he died and I hope it is a comfort to you that we did everything we could and he was not alone. The room was full of nurses and doctors. His death was very peaceful and he did not suffer at all.”
A fellow soldier named Pete recounts the accident that took Ben’s life.
“I was with him when he got hit by the roadside bomb and the way he was positioned saved my life. He took the brunt of the blast and I only received minor injuries. I owe my life to him. I’m glad that I was there and I helped perform first aid. It being Ben really made me work twice as hard to get him on the helicopter. He was out cold and had a cocky smile on his face. I’m going to miss him so much. He was a great friend. He could make me laugh at the worst possible times in my life. Even now I look back on the stuff he did and laugh. My mom and dad met Ben before he was deployed and my old man took a liking to him. Ben loved you and his family with all his heart.”
Ben and fellow soldier Justin Norton were both killed in the explosion. The families have already been in contact with each other and plan to meet at Fort Hood when their sons’ troop arrives home.
“It’s hard going through this and waiting for his body to come back, but in a way I don’t want it to be over. After the funeral it’s so final, with nothing else to look forward to. To have your child die in a foreign land is just the worst pain,” said Gale.
“I know he wouldn’t want me to cry over him, but how do you stop that?” she asked.
Ben will be buried beside his grandfather, a World War II veteran. His family said he would have liked that.