OWENSVILLE, IN, USA U.S. Marine Corps LCPL, I CO, 3D BN, 2D MAR, (RCT-5, I MEF FWD), 2D MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC HABBANIYAH, IRAQ 11/02/2006
James was born on January 12, 1986, in Evansville. From age 9 until he left for the Marines, he lived with his mom, Joanne (“Jody”), his sister, Carma, now 17, and his brother, Dillen, now 15, in rural Gibson County southwest of Owensville, Indiana.
When James was in grade school, his mom married Edward Van Antwerp. Eddie bonded tightly with James, teaching him to hunt and fish and encouraging him in his many sports.
James played basketball and baseball throughout his youth. He became an athlete of exceptional talent and strength and one known for ferocious intensity. He played basketball for Owensville Middle School for three years and made the South Gibson AAU basketball team.
When James was only 11, however, Eddie was killed in a tragic auto accident. Eddie’s death was a hugely traumatic event in James’ life. James had to shoulder a lot more responsibility for his family and became very protective of them.
James graduated from Gibson Southern High School in 2005, but long before graduation, he had decided to pursue a career in the Marine Corps. He wanted badly to serve his country after the events of 9-11 and he committed to serve during a time of war.
James was impressive and successful as a young Marine and, when he returned home on leave in September 2005, his leave was extended so he could help with marine recruiting in southern Indiana. In April 2006, James was promoted to Lance Corporal, a second promotion in less than 10 months’ service.
Just before leaving for Iraq in July 2006, James proposed to his girlfriend, Jamie Coleman, whom he had met in third grade. They planned to get married when James returned from his seven month tour in Iraq in February, 2007.
While in Iraq, he would always find time to call his family, Jamie, his marine buddies and his friends. But, on October 31, just two days before he died, he made eight calls home … an unusual number. Something seemed to be bothering him. He mentioned to friends, but not family, that they had “lost some guys” and that he was anxious to get home, but could not say more and did not want to worry his family.
Knowing James as they do, it should not surprise us to learn that James placed himself in the heart of the fight, wearing a vulnerable rank in a vulnerable service and serving in Iraq’s most dangerous zone. It was always his nature to accept the greatest challenge … to back up the middle of the line in football … to take on the boxing champion in the weight class above him. Such was his courage.
He wanted to be a combat soldier and he wanted to go Iraq. He made that decision knowing that Americans were dying there and after talking to several purple-heart veterans about the realities of war. And in the same way he led his football team and boxing team, he wanted to be exactly where he was – leading men into the belly of the beast.
He returned home a hero – a hero to his family, his friends and to patriotic Americans everywhere. He was buried with full military honors. More people attended his funeral at Gibson Southern High School than live in his entire home town. He will be remembered with everlasting respect by those who loved him and by many who did not even know him. The people of Indiana will certainly never forget him. Hoosiers never forget their fallen soldiers. Any visit to Indianapolis will attest to that.