Sunday, December 31, 2006

The beginnings of a soldier

It's funny how hindsight is so revealing. Looking back, I can spot many instances in Jamin's life that might have told me he would someday be a soldier. For instance, we got our first computer when he was almost six. I can still see him and his little brother perched on chairs, legs dangling with little red sneakers swinging in midair. The favorite game was "Wings of Fury", a flight control operation, where tiny airplanes would take off and land from little aircraft carriers, carrying out their missions to bomb enemy strongholds in the process.The boys would play it for hours, the joystick gripped and their bodies jerking from side to side to "help" with the landings.

I believe it was in the summer of '88 when JB was asked to be the ring bearer in the wedding of a dear friend. We traveled to Kentucky for the wedding, and Jamin, a bit self concious, was told what to do for the rehearsal. Well, his first trip down the isle was full of mischief--silly faces and and a walking style that was closer to that of a clown. It was his way of compensating for being in the unwanted spotlight. I met him at the end of the ilse, took him aside, probably got a good grip on his shoulders, and told him I was expecting more from him. "You walk down that isle like a soldier next time". I can still hear myself saying it. Apparently he could still hear it too, as he went down the isle a second time, stiff as a board, not flinching. An immediate soldier he had become, to the opposite extreme.

In sixth grade, JB was asked to take his turn at being in charge of the flag-raising ceremony at his elementary school. As I recall, each child did it for several weeks at a time. One morning, when I was dropping the other children off at school, one of the teachers pulled me aside. "You've got to see this, she said." I watched as I saw my oldest son come around the corner leading a group of other sixth-graders in a military-style march to the flag pole. A brief ceremony took place, orchestrated entirely by Jamin, who made sure everyone stood at attention while the flag went up. Half of the teaching staff stood and watched it seemed, as they had never seen anything like it. "Where did he get this idea?", I asked myself. Neither his dad nor I had taught it to him. But somehow he had picked up a sense of order that should accompany a flag-raising, and made sure it was accomplished, even with 11 year-olds.

Hiking with Jamin

A happy memory of mine is the time Jamin (about age 12) and I hiked our first 14,000 ft. peak in Colorado. We camped over night at the base and arose before daylight the next morning to head up Mount of the Holy Cross. The climb went well and we arrived at the top enjoying the "forever" views all to ourselves. Jamin took particular pride in signing the log showing that he had reached the goal. Although the hike up had been strenuous, the hike back proved to be particularly difficult because it involved climbing down through massive boulder fields and was really tiring to my legs. I'll always remember as we neared the bottom and I was about to drop from exaustion Jamin cheerfully called to me from behind. He said, "Dad I just realized something", to which I replied, "What's that son?" And he happily said, "I just realized I've been smiling the whole way down". That was the essence of my Jamin - he almost always had a smile on his face and he faced even the most difficult tasks with enthusiasm and happiness. Jamin, I love you like crazy! Dad

Words of Wisdom

As I have been going through Jamin's photos preparing for the upcoming memorial in Denver I came across a picture that he took of an epitaph on display at Bastogne, a cemetary commemorating those who died during World War II.

The fact that Jamin took a picture of it attests to the importance and meaning he thought these words conveyed.

In light of his own death I think that Jamin would utter words much the same as these if he had the chance. Though he is gone our lives can still be a ripple of all of the good that he was and in so doing bring honor to his 25 years with us on earth.

In case you can't read the words in the picture they say:

We have only died in vain if you believe so;
You have to decide the wisdom of our choice,
By the world which you shall build upon our headstones,
And the everlasting truth, which have your voice.

Though dead, we are not heros yet, nor can be,
'Til the living by their lives which are the tools,
Carve us the epitaph of wise men,
And give us not the epitaph of fools.

David J. Phillips, 506th P.J.F./ 101st Abne. Div.

Jamin's Alphabet

It happened one afternoon . . . 4, maybe 5 years ago. Jamin was home from college for the summer and was unusually just hanging around the house not really doing much of anything. I forget the circumstances that surrounded the event that I am about to explain but I imagine that some of us were gathered in the living room just watching tv, reading or talking. J.B. walked through and seated himself down right next to the bowl of pretzels that Mom always had conviently located for "walk-by munching."

And so he began; just snacking at first until suddenly through an uncalculated bite a letter of the alphabet appeared. Thus, the challenge arose. Could he infact recreate the whole English alphabet by nibbling away at pretzels? The idea was his and his alone. Never being one to back away from possiblity, Jamin embarked on this quest.

I will never forget the look he gave each pretzel as he picked it up and studied it carefully ensuring its quality for the purpose that he had in mind. He approached each letter almost mathmatically trying to figure out which parts needed to go and which needed to stay. And then carefully, ever SO carefully he would bite into it with the precision that only his perfectly straight set of teeth could provide making you wonder if all of those years of dental care had lead up to this one moment.

I'll admit, I doubted. And so after awhile I tired of merely watching his efforts and retired to my room. Occasionally I would hear his grunts of frustration (the only way I ever heard him express anger) or the occasional "Ah, Man!" through clentched teeth when the shape fell apart on the last bite.

He must have been there over an hour never moving from his spot on the couch. He would not leave his post until his task was complete. I don't know how many pretzels he ended up consuming that afternoon just to make those 26 letters but I do remember noticing that the munching pile had significantly decreased in the bowl.

What I do remember though is that when the call came that dinner was ready I headed downstairs and there it was in plain view. You couldn't miss it. He had done it and he was proud. I think that the pretzels were stale by the time that he reluctantly allowed us to throw them away.

He knew it was silly, of course. But, he also knew that he had accomplished something that he set out to do and he took pride in it. That was Jamin. Always! Whether pretzels, or papers, websites, or languages he set out to do the best he could and didn't shy from ridicule in the process. You see he was doing it to prove to himself that he could and he always did it amazingly well.

And so without further ado I present to you Jamin's pretzel alphabet:

Thursday, December 28, 2006

In the Shadow of the Pentagon

December 26th, 2006
It is a sea of white. Tombstones as far as your eye can see, broken up only by the perfectly manicured lawns inbetween and the occasional burst of color provided by a wreath, flag or boquet of flowers so lovingly placed in remeberance of happier times. Even before you enter the gates the reminder of the finality of life seems to grab hold and carry you to a place of reverent silence.

Just across the Potomac lies the lifeblood of the American dream - monuments of those who have and offices of those who continue to preserve our nation's freedom. It is only fitting that the Memorial Bridge linking one to the other originates in front of Lincoln's memorial one of the greatest visionairies of what America could be if all men were free, and ends with those who have died trying to preserve this vision. To the West is the historic Iwo Jima Memorial, to the East the Pentagon. Greatness lies before and beside this hallowed ground. This is truly a place of honor. This is Arlington Memorial Cemetery. This is where on December 26th, 2006 at 1:00pm in the afternoon we said our final goodbyes laid Lt. Jamin Buchanan Wilson to rest.

I think back to ten years ago when Jamin entered this place on his own power. We were tourists then. Respectful, grateful, and in awe of the cost of our liberty but rather numb to the true value of each of those blindingly white headstones. But Jamin learned to understand. While many would spend time lying on a beach somewhere Jamin would take the time to continue to visit these military cemetarys throughout his travels in Europe. He found a certain beauty in them. They were clean, organized, well kept, informative, honoring, massive in scope and in his eyes "one of the government's best use of money." We chose Arlington for this reason . . . Jamin would have loved it!

Once again the Air Force came through far beyond what we could have expected. We followed the hearse to the burial site in Section 66 near the corner of Arnold and McArthur drives. Waiting for us were 8 men in uniform to be the pallbearers. The precision with which they preformed their duty could only have been shown up by one man that I know. The American flag covered the casket of this most beloved brother of mine

Chaplain Black conducted the service and spoke to Jamin's extraordinary level of service through a letter as written by Jamin's commanding officer at Spangdahlem Air Base, Lt. Colonel Bennett. My Dad, Charlie, spoke to his talents, potential and humility. There was a 21 gun salute followed by the presentation of the flag to our family on behalf of President Bush. When the commemorative box was place in my parents hands and opened I think that we all nearly lost our breath. There were Jamin's medals of honor that his service to the nation had merited. A small representation of the kind of man he was but special nonetheless.

A final prayer was said and roses were placed on the casket by all those present. And so we said goodbye and left to let Jamin rest in peace with those whom have gone before him.

There are those buried alongside him that may have received more medals than he, fought in more battles, saved more people, or done more for the American democracy. But, they did all of this with a sense of honor, and integrity, giving the best that they were for the country they loved. And in this way Jamin is no different. Let us all cherish these attributes in respect of those who showed us how.

Our hope is that one day you too may be able to pay your respects to Jamin and the others who have given their lives for us.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tunnel Vision

The following is a short video that Jamin took on a trip with some of his high school friends, Jeff Burch and Chip Meister, when they visited him in September, 2006. Although you can't see Jamin at all in this movie his personality oozes through.

Be prepared to get more excited about a man made hole through a mountain than you ever have in your life!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Denver Memorial Service Information

Memorial Services for Lt. Jamin Buchanan Wilson will be held
Saturday, January 6th at 2:00 PM
Southern Gables Church
4001 S. Wadsworth Blvd.
Lakewood, CO 80123-1358

This Church is located on the Southwest side of Denver, appx. a one hour+ drive from DIA. Major cross streets are Hampden and Wadsworth.

Or click on the link below,+Littleton,+CO+80123&sll=39.640066,-105.082512&sspn=0.172377,0.359116&ie=UTF8&om=1&z=11

For those arriving from out of town, hotel accommodations can be arranged at the following:
Holiday Inn Lakewood (303) 980-9200
7390 W Hampden Ave
Lakewood, CO 80227
Ask for the bereavement rate/Wilson Memorial Service/$59.00

Other close-by hotels are...
Hampton Inn Denver (303)989-6900
3605 S. Wadsworth Blvd
Lakewood Co 80035
rate quoted was $89-99

Courtyard Suites, Lakewood (303) 985-9696
7180 W Hampden Ave
Lakewood, Co 80227
rate quoted was $69-79

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Accident Explained

I know that for some of you it may be difficult to read the circumstances under which Jamin left this earth. If this is the case I would suggest that you cease reading this particular blog and go on to read or add onto other happier memories of him on this site. However, there are those of you for whom an explaination of the accident scene may help to bring some understanding and closure to this tragic event.

I will start by stating that Jamin was an excellent driver. He was that way when he began driving and as I understand it he was that way up until the day that he died. While I would buckle my seatbelt while pulling away from the house and adjust the music and seat once the car was in motion, Jamin would always spend the extra minute or two when he got into the car to make sure that all such arrangements were taken care of before he ever put the car in drive. It used to drive me crazy! Furthermore, he would never exceed the speed limit and it was difficult to ever catch him without his hands placed properly at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. All that being said it was a shock to hear that J.B.'s death occured in a car accident. How in the world could my "perfect driving record" brother have made an error so big? The following is an account as I understand it from eyewitnesses of the accident. I hope that this description will assure you that even in such a horrible event Jamin's last moments on earth were not filled with suffering.

From what we understand, the night of Wednesday December 13th 2006 Jamin enjoyed sorting holiday mail at the base post office with some of his friends until around 8:30pm. Although invited to hang out afterwards, Jamin decided that he should go home and get a full eight hours of sleep . . . something that probably hadn't happened in awhile. As best we know this is exactly what he did.

Thursday, December 14th Jamin arose and prepared to go to a weekly meeting with all of the other officers in his squadron. The meeting was to begin at 7:00am. On the way Jamin was to pick up a new officer that he had volunteered to take under his wing for the first few weeks on base. The drive to Spangdahlem Air Base from his apartment in Speicher is approximately 15 minutes on two lane country roads that are mostly open on both sides with fields, trees are few and far between.

On his way out of his town of Speicher he approached a car in front of him, which later turned out to have been driven by an airman on his way to base as well. As he approached him, the two lane road turned into a passing zone and for whatever reason J.B. opted to pass this car - venturing into the oncoming traffic lane. This section of road is also curved in somewhat of an "S" shape so what J.B. didn't realize when he began passing the car in front of him was that their was another car oncoming around the top of the "S" curve. Keep in mind too that at this early hour in Germany the sky is still dark and the roads unlit. In addition the roads were slightly wet from a dew or light rain the night before.

In order to avoid a head on collision with the oncoming car J.B. sped up to pass the first car and quickly pulled back into his appropriate lane. As these are country roads there really are no shoulders off to the side of the road so his quick maneuver sent him off the right side of the road onto some grass. He quickly adjusted the wheel leaving a tire arch in the grass to attempt to gain control and get back on the roadway. It is believed that at this point he overcorrected the wheel to the left which sent him sliding along the wet road acrossed the oncoming traffic lane, which thankfully was empty at this point, and off onto the grass on the left side. At this point his brakes were engaged as we were able to see where his tires dug into the grass trying to gain traction. However, because of his speed and the conditions outside, he was unable to stop and the right side of his car impacted a cluster of trees. (The right side of the car may seem unlikely since from the tire tracks it appears that he was heading straight towards the trees when he left the roadway but Jamin probably thought quickly enough to turn the wheel to the left thinking that the side of the car furthest away from him to impact the trees would cause the least injury).

Unfortuneately this side of the car impacting the trees is probably what ultimately killed him. Jamin was wearing his seat belt and all air bags in his car deployed. However, because the impact was on the right side of the car and their were no air bags to absorb some of the impact for his body. It is therefore thought that he died of a spinal neck injury when it quickly snapped to the right. There was no evidence of injury anywhere else on his body. The time was 7:02am. Jamin had been in his car for probably no more than 5 minutes since leaving his house as the outskirts of his town of speicher can be seen from the scene of the accident.

The airman whom he had passed witnessed the whole accident occur and was the first on the scene followed by another person on their way to the base. Within seconds they were at J.B.'s side. However, thankfully his death had been instantaneous and although paramedics did arrive there was nothing to be done.

Below are several pictures that were taken when we as a family visited the site the following Monday. I hope that these give you a better understanding of the sceneario that I just outlined.

Each of us has gone through our own "what if" questions in our head thinking of the many small details that if altered may have saved my brother. It seems that there are so many more things in this particular accident that could have gone "right" than could have gone wrong. However, after visiting the scene we as a family have come to the realization that it simply was an "accident" in the truest sense of the word.

As hard as it is for us to understand and accept, it was Jamin's time to leave us. With this perspective we can then be thankful for several things about that morning. Jamin died with hopefully little or no pain or suffering. He died after a joyful night with friends. And, his accident did not cause injury to any others on the road.

God still reigns supreme and He is still good.

Of that I am sure.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A smile so contagious - A life lived so well !

Our Family

As I sit here tonight it is hard for me to believe that a week has passed since I first heard the news that my big brother Jamin had been killed in a car accident. I cannot even explain to you the grief and anguish that I have felt over the last seven days but I imagine that I don't really need to as you are probably feeling much the same way.

There is no doubt that J.B. was an incredibly special person! He was smart, talented in so many areas, considerate, funny, respectful, enthusiastic and humble.

I have created this blog in hopes that we can all share with each other stories, memories, and lessons from his life - so that his death would not be in vain but rather challenge us to be better people and multiply all the good that he was.

I will be maintaining this blog so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have any questions or problems with the site or would just like to share a memory privately with me. I can be reaced via email at

Share Your Memories

This site has been created for friends, family, and co-workers of Jamin Wilson to share their memories, photos, and videos of this incredible man. Feel free to comment on any posts that have already been created. However, if you would like to be added as a contributor to this blog please send me an email at Please include your name and your relationship to Jamin so that I can add you to the list. This will allow you to upload text, photos, or videos whenever a memory comes to mind.