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James R Zimmerman


U.S. Marine Corps



James R Zimmerman was killed action on November 2, 2010 in Helmand province, Afghanistan by sniper fire. He is my nephew, my sister’s youngest son. My sister would always say “Everyone should have a James.” He was so gentle, kind and loving. He had a tremendous compassion for others and an intuitive nature with animals. He loved his family, his brother, Christian, his sister, Meghan, his parents, Tom and Jane, his dog, his horse and his cat, LT. He loved being with his cousins. He always greeted you with a tremendous hug and an “I love you”. He had a very strong faith as a Christian. He married his wife, Lynel in June 2008. She is a veterinarian.

All James ever wanted was to be a Marine. As a child, he loved to dress up in “marine” uniforms, using green and black face paint for his “cammo”. His imagination would take him through every battle he had learned about. He would cling to every story grampa would tell about being in WW2. He would draw for hours depicting marines and their duties. He went to basic training right from high school. He then went to college and ROTC, then on to officers training. He was so proud of being a Marine. He went to Afganistan as a 1st Lt. with young men looking up to him as a leader. He was fulfilling his childhood dream. I have to think of it as him fulfilling his mission here. He was on his path with a huge faith that God would take him where he was supposed to go. He is in heaven with his grandfather, who he loved more than anything.

Life is hard sometimes but I know in my heart that I will find a place for this grief and because I knew James, I will be a better person.

News of Zimmerman’s death began circulating around Houlton, where the school is located, on Wednesday morning. Teachers and students at the school said the family had been notified on Tuesday. Students who asked not to be identified said Wednesday evening they were told of Zimmerman’s death shortly after the school day began. Teachers were told before the start of the school day.

Zimmerman’s father, Tom Zimmerman, is the assistant head of the school. His mother, Jane, is a nurse with Visiting Nurses of Aroostook and works with music students at the school. The couple lives in Smyrna Mills.

Wayne Watson, a family friend who also has been involved with Greater Houlton Christian Academy, said Wednesday evening that Zimmerman was friends with his two daughters. Both of the young women attended the school. He said he believed it was the 25-year-old’s first tour in Afghanistan. Watson said Zimmerman started taking steps to join the military in high school after talking at length with a local military veteran.

“He believed it was his calling,” he said. “James was so outgoing and likeable; he had a great sense of humor. He also was very athletic and would take on any challenge that was put to him. We all knew that he would accomplish any goal that he set out to do.”

For Mark Jago, the former headmaster of Greater Houlton Christian Academy, memories of 1st Lt. James Zimmerman are both plentiful and powerful. On Thursday, Jago recalled when he last saw Zimmerman during the summer. He came into church in his Marine uniform.

“I remember that I specifically asked him, ‘Is this [the Marines] what you thought it would be,’” he said. “And he looked at me, and with a twinkle in his eye, said, ‘Absolutely, yes it is.’”


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