James C Coons

James C Coons

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U.S. Army
WASHINGTON 07/04/2003

The boy his parents called Jimmy seemed destined for the military. At 5, he was enthralled with helicopters and practiced parachute jumps from backyard trees. As a teenager, he displayed fastidiousness unusual for his years. “He would fold his dirty clothes before putting them in the hamper,” said Carol Coons, 55.

He entered the Army in 1987, right after high school, and spent a short time as a field artilleryman before switching to the specialty that would define his military career, the signal corps. It required attention to detail as well as a way with people. For Coons, working on the computer systems that allowed soldiers to communicate with each other seemed a natural fit.

Coons was 6-foot-2 and handsome. He looked like a recruiting poster for the military.

“Everything was squared away,” said Sgt. Hector Pedroza, 24, who worked under Coons.

He had a no-nonsense attitude with his soldiers, Pedroza said, but he was also approachable. Pedroza sought out Coons when he was unsure whether to marry his military girlfriend because he feared that they would be separated. Coons urged him to make the commitment, and after Pedroza did, his wife got pregnant, which helped get them placed together.

“He was my role model,” Pedroza said. “A lot of things that I did, I thought, ‘What would he do?’ “

Coons and his wife, Robin, 29, a former preschool teacher whom he met when he worked as a military recruiter in Texas, lived on the Pennsylvania base with his daughter from a previous marriage. He and Robin had a second daughter in 2001.

“He called us ‘his girls,’ ” Robin said. “He just always let us know how much he loved us.”

Coons also played the prankster. In family portraits with Robin and the children, he would pose bug-eyed. He once mooned the children at an extended family party. Still, even at home, the military influence ran deep. He had his children stand in line, backs straight, chests out, eyes forward, then would tell them to relax. Laughing, Robin would admonish: “They’re not your soldiers, they’re your daughters.”

He had one blemish on his military career: In 1990, when he was 22, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail and paid a $1,150 fine for a DWI offense while stationed at Fort Hood, Tex. His mother said he had turned down his father’s offer of a lawyer because he wanted to accept the full punishment. “He liked to take care of things properly,” she said.

After three years in Pennsylvania, when the time came for Coons to be deployed again, he had a choice of Korea or Kuwait. He chose Kuwait. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Robin said, “he wanted to be a part of that.”

He arrived at Camp Doha in Kuwait in July. The signals corps there had already supported several missions in Afghanistan. But the country was on the brink of a much bigger war.

James’ portrait is also located on Poster 6


3 Responses to “James C Coons”
  1. Walter Finnerty says:

    I met MSG Coons and got to know him when we were in the same PLDC Class at Ft. Hood. I was bragging about how I was getting out of Field Artillery and had re-enlisted to become a 74B Computer Operator. He listened intently on what I mentioned on how to go about re-classifying. Several months later while in school for my new MOS, Coon’s shows up in a class a cycle or two after mine. We continued to develop our friendship and parted ways when I finished school and went back to Ft. Hood. I got orders to go to Okinawa Japan. Just like before, several months later, Coons shows up and assigned to my very same, squad, and unit. We just laughed. For three years we were good friends and would often go to lunch together, ride around the island together, did PT together. Even then Coons was a Super Soldier and often set the standard for us when it came to soldiering. It was Coons who inspired me to get involved with NCO Competitions and I ended being the NCO of the Year for our Brigade. He was also a caring and supportive friend. When I had to go away to BNCOC, he mowed my lawn for a good three months so my wife didn’t have to. I left service in 1998. He would often send me emails and call me Fat Boy because I told him I wasn’t working out any more and we would have a good laugh about it. Then the emails stopped coming and I wondered what happened to him. I later did the research and found out about his tragic story. My heart goes out to him, his wife and children and family back home in TX. I will always think about him, and miss him. Walter Finnerty (SSG, USA)

  2. James Alicie says:

    I served with MSG Coons at the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA. He was my first line supervisor. I was a purchasing agent for Systems Group in the Center For Strategic Leadership. With him being 6’2″ and me being 6’4″, we were called the “Twin Towers” of Collins Hall. I had a few supervisors prior to his arrival that would either monitor my work with a fine toothed comb or let me do my own thing without any real supervision. MSG Coons was the happy medium between the two. He would keep an eye on me but always trusted my judgement on how to go about handling my duties. During his stay in Carlisle, He would be promoted to MSG and I knew when that happened, his time as my supervisor would soon be coming to an end. Much to my delight, he became the 1SG for Headquarters Company. I was spiraling out of control in my personal life and that led to a late night meeting with 1SG Coons at his house. I was brought there by the MPs. I was so embarrassed that I had let him down. He never once raised his voice with me during our meeting. He made sure that I knew that I was straying from the righteous path and needed to tighten my shot group…without having to belittle or ridicule me. I straightened up my act and eventually earned an opportunity to go before the E6 board. He was already gone from Pennsylvania, but I imagined that he was sitting right next to me as I got drilled with question after question by the board members. I remember hearing “Raise your voice; sit up straight.” and “You better know this!” while I sat there. I was in Germany when I heard of his passing. My unit was on detail receiving units who were about to deploy and making sure they had everything they needed prior to departing to go to Iraq. I received an e-mail from a friend I worked with in Carlisle and immediately broke down. He was my mentor. He was the first senior NCO who believed in me and made me see the potential that he saw. Every time I have a question, comment and/or concern, I think about how he would handle a situation. As long as I live, I will never forget him.

  3. Justin Corder says:

    My sincere condolences to MSG Coons family… Breaks my heart still to this day…

    I worked with MSG Coons @ Camp Doha Kuwait from Aug 2002-Jan 2003.. He was permanent party, I was just TDY there.. Ive seen in a few articles that says he was 6’2″ tall BUT He had to be 6’7″, I kid you not.. Would eat at the Doha chow hall with him once and a while. Our jobs were very different from each other, I was a USAF TACP/JTAC and there for the defense of Kuwait from possible further aggression’s from Saddam (Operation Intrinsic Action).

    He was an excellent SNCO.. Always willing to help anyone in need of help. Give you the shirt off his back. If you were having a bad day, you were not having a bad day any longer after you spoke to him. He had some way to “turn your frown upside down”.. Last time I saw him was April of 2003 (I left Camp Doha in Jan 2003 to go back to Germany to come back with my unit for the drive to Baghdad in April 2003). I stopped by the building (Across the road from ours) to borrow a 10 port network switch so we could have internet connectivity at Camp Pennsylvania (middle of the desert in Kuwait)during our time there prior to the 36 hour death drive to Baghdad.

    I found out from a SSG during a flight back from Qatar in 2004 that this had occurred.. I could not believe it. I did not want to believe it. If I did not know that the SSG worked for MSG Coons I would have never believed him.

    I will never forget him as well. I am proud to have called him my friend.

    please take time to look at this if you can..

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