Paratroopers honor the fallen

24 Jan 2007 | Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry (Airborne) paused operations Jan. 24 to honor a fallen paratrooper.

Soldiers and Marines honored Army Cpl. Jason J. Corbett in a memorial service at Camp Fallujah's Chapel of Hope. Corbett, 23, from Casper, Wyo., was assigned to the battalion's Blackfoot Company. He was killed in action Jan. 15 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province.

Soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne) are serving with Marines of Regimental Combat Team 6.

"He was a hero in the truest sense of the word," said Army Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage, the battalion's commander. "He had a zest for life he carried from his home in Wyoming to duty in Iraq."

Balcavage described Corbett as an upbeat soldier who lifted the spirits of those around him.

“Jason was quick with a compliment,” said Balcavage. “He was always flashing a toothy smile, always good natured and positive.”

Balcavage added that Corbett had an ingrained sense of the important things in life.

“Jason loved his family, and talked about them often. He was a man of character and his friends, the army and his country were very important to him,” he said.

Army Capt. Chuck Canon, Blackfoot Company commander, recalled the first time he met Corbett.

“I met Corbett in Kuwait and was immediately impressed by the professionalism of his squad and platoon, and the tightly-knit family they were,” Canon said. “Cpl. Corbett was a dedicated infantryman and he took his job seriously.”

Canon indulged in a particularly vivid memory he had of the paratrooper.

“The night before we lost him as I was walking through sleeping quarters at (our OP), most of 1st Platoon was sleeping after a day of patrolling,” recalled Canon. “I tripped over Corbett sitting there in the dark with a headlamp on, cleaning his weapon. I will never forget his smile when he looked at me and said, ‘Sorry sir, but there’s no where else to do this.’ I took comfort in knowing this dedicated young man was on my team.”

Canon continued on to say Corbett was a model for the rest of the soldiers in his company to emulate.

“You could pick (Corbett) for any detail and he would do it without any complaints and a motivating smile on his face. He could run two miles at the speed of light. His knack for making people laugh, his drive for success and his ability to carry on through the adversity of the infantry profession were an inspiration and comfort to all those who knew him,” he said.

Corbett was born March 18, 1983. He graduated high school and attended Casper Community College, Casper, Wyo., briefly before joining the army.

After graduating ITB and Basic Airborne School in August 2004, Corbett was assigned to D Company, Special Troops Unit at Fort Bragg, N.C. In November 2004, Corbett was assigned to D Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry (Airborne). He deployed to Australia for Operation Talisman Sabre in 2005 and in October 2006 he deployed with B Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry (Airborne) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Lussi was served alongside and was friends with Corbett. His remarks to the crowd conveyed Corbett’s sense of humor and good nature.

“We didn’t really have a nickname for him we always used, we only used it during (urban combat) training. We called him ‘Pelican’ because while at the high ready taking exaggerated steps with this long skinny legs, he walked like a bird,” recalled Lussi. “It was always quite amusing then we’d all start chanting ‘Do it! Do it! Run backwards!’ After much begging and pleading he would ... start running backwards. He ran faster backward than some people ran forward.”

Corbett also had a deep, unabiding love for family, said Lussi.

“Corbett loved his family, and if you saw a picture of them in his room and asked, he would tell you all about them: who they were, their names, where they lived and so on,” said Lussi. “He truly loved his girl and told me that when he got back he was going to propose to her. He was just thinking about how he would do it and when.”

Lussi also remarked on the quality of soldier Corbett was.

“He was a great soldier and the best gunner I ever had. He constantly kept us informed of what he saw and where it was coming from,” he said. “Nine times out of ten if I ever had to tell him to do something he was one step ahead of me.”

Corbett’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon. He also earned the Combat Infantry, Expert Infantry and Parachutist badges.

Army 1st Sgt. Vern Daley, Blackfoot Company’s first sergeant, called “Final Roll,” calling out Corbett’s name three times. He was answered by a soldier stating Corbett was killed in action Jan. 15, 2006.

“Taps” followed.

“I was asked why it’s always the good guys that get hit,” said Balcavage. “It’s better to say we’re a company full of good guys, and for that we should feel blessed. The loss of this good guy, Cpl. Jason J. Corbett, hits us hard.”