I, myself, am not married to a member of our armed forces, but I am a Gold Star sister. Anyone with any military background at all knows what this means.
My only brother, SSG Justin Michael 'Dutch' Estes, was Killed in Action on March 5, 2007 in Samarra, Iraq. He was 25 years old. He and I were very close, being only a year and 10 months (to the day) apart in age.
Justin was a soldier in every sense of the word; he loved his job and was really good at it. He was a natural leader, and at 6'5", he was easy to find. He was really quick-witted and ready with a smile for anyone. He is missed by anyone who had the great fortune of meeting him.
March 5, 2007 is a day I will never forget about for as long as I live. I was at work at the Cheesecake Factory when a call came through for me. It was my Mom, and she called to tell me that Justin was gone.
He had been in the third vehicle of a convoy that was patrolling the berm outside of Samarra. The first hum-vee ran over a pressure switch that detonated the buried IED. The vehicle was literally blown in half and 4 of the 5 occupants were killed instantly. One of the soldiers was still alive, but badly injured and on fire. Justin saw this, and left the safety of his vehicle with a fire blanket at the same time as the commander of the 2nd hum-vee brought forward a fire extinguisher. Together, they administered first-aid to their injured comrade and called forward the evacuation team. Just as the evac team got close, the Iraqi insurgents remotely detonated a secondary buried IED that Justin was standing directly over. He was killed instantly, as well as the commander of the second vehicle, and the soldier they were trying to save. The medic died later of his injuries, but he made it back to US soil. Justin was awarded the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action. It is the third highest Honor the ARMY gives out.
I wanted to link in today to talk not only about him, and how he died, but also about what the school in our very small town in Arkansas is doing. Oden High School is the school where both Justin & I graduated. It has a club called the Fellowship of Christian Students. They decided to have a fundraiser this year to raise money for a memorial for Justin. They are dedicating our school's flagpole to Justin's service and memory. They paid for a granite slab to be engraved with his credentials and service information, as well as lights for the flagpole so the flag can be flown around the clock. It's such a blessing to be from a small town where everyone remembers him, because all we have left of him are our memories. The presentation will be on Sunday, March 4, 2012. March 5th will mark 5 years since he was killed. There is never a day that goes by that I don't think about him. Just remember that Freedom most certainly is not free.
I attached a video that shares about these brave men who gave their lives so that we may continue to live free, please take the time to check it out.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend. " John 15:13
Rest in Peace to the Samarra 7: You will be forever in our hearts and minds.
SSG Justin Estes
SGT Andrew Perkins
SPC Justin Rollins
PFC Cory Kosters
SSG Robert Stanley
SPC Ryan Bell
SGT Josh Boyd