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Thursday, April 29, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Kirkland man dies in Iraq ambush
By Sara Jean Green
Jake Herring received a Purple Heart after he was hit by shrapnel in December and could have come home to Kirkland.
Instead, he chose to stay in Iraq and fight.
The Lake Washington High School graduate died either yesterday or Tuesday in a roadside ambush west of Najaf, friends said yesterday. The 21-year-old member of the Fort Lewis-based Stryker Brigade was killed and three other soldiers were injured by rocket-propelled grenades.
As of last night, Department of Defense officials had not released details about the ambush or Herring's death.
Herring was the 26th person either from or based out of Washington state to die in the war in Iraq.
Herring's mother said yesterday that her son had just been promoted to the rank of sergeant, but declined to comment further, saying she needed more time to come to terms with her son's death.
Family friend Kim Henwood said Herring was to finish his tour of duty next month and his friends were planning a big welcome-home party.
"His mom saved a scrapbook for him, of everything he did in the Army," Henwood said, adding that the last entry is Herring's e-mail to his mother announcing he'd passed his sergeant's exam. "Little did she know she was making a scrapbook for herself."
Soon after graduating from high school in 2001 months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Herring and two of his closest friends joined the Army together, said their former high-school football coach, Tim Tramp.
In December, Herring was injured by shrapnel after a roadside bomb tore through the Humvee he was riding, Tramp said. He later received a Purple Heart.
"He chose to stay and fight with his military family," Tramp said. "Knowing him and his character, I was not surprised he chose to stay instead of taking a free ride home."
Herring's first year of high school was also Tramp's first year as coach of the Lake Washington team. "That group of kids was kind of special, and they were a very close group of players, both on and off the field," Tramp said. Herring didn't become a starter until his senior year, when his teammates made him their captain.
"He was a tenacious competitor, and he worked really hard," Tramp said.
Mick Morrison and a group of buddies spent last night on Morrison's rooftop, talking about old times with Herring.
Morrison and Herring met in the seventh grade, when Herring moved into Morrison's neighborhood. The two remained part of a close-knit group who played football together until they graduated.
Determination was the thing that set Herring apart from the other players, Morrison said.
Herring took that trait with him into the military, his friend said. He was not focused on glory or attention or playing a part in world politics. It was all about doing the job, and doing it right.
"He was like my leg, or my heart just a part of me," Morrison said.
Seattle Times reporters Nick Perry and Cara Solomon contributed to this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or email@example.com
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