FALLEN SONS: Wounds of grief remain fresh for family of Jason Sparks

Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



Scott and Lisa Sparks did not even know their son, Jason, was inside Iraq until they suddenly learned he had died.

Private 2 Jason L. Sparks, 19, died Sept. 8, 2004, in a firefight in Fallujah, Iraq. He had been in the country for about a week.

"Two gentlemen came to the door," Lisa said. "I saw two men in uniform. I knew then."

Scott was at work at Mansfield Air Base when the family support person took him outside to give him the news.

"I can't imagine what he had to do to prepare for that," Scott said.

The terrible news about the oldest of their two children remains very painful. Daughter Sarah, 6 at the time of her brother's death, is now 10.

Scott said he gets the impression sometimes that people expect him to get over what happened.

"You can't," he said.

"It's like a sore that never heals," Lisa said.

"It's not easy. You think about him every day," Scott said.

Memorial Day is tough, but theanniversary of Jason's death is verydifficult, he said.

"That's about three days I walk around like a zombie," he said.

"I just have a numbness that never goes away," Lisa said. "I can't say I cry every day as I used to. I still cry."

Sparks graduated from Monroeville High School in 2003.

When he decided to go into theservice, his father, a career Air Force man, explained the advantages and disadvantages of each branch of the service but did not try to influence his decision.

Sparks became an infantryman in Company C, First Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army. He was a gunner on top of a Humvee.

Little information was available at first about how he died.

"They could only tell us at the time that he had been killed," Lisa said.

Since then, the family has heard more than one version of whathappened.

In one account, the unit was going down the road on a mission when it was ambushed. Another soldier told the family that Sparks' convoy took the wrong road and got caught up in a firefight.

The couple knew their son was being sent to Iraq, but they had not known he actually was there.

"We kind of figured he was in transit," Lisa said.

The news that their son had died devastated the Sparks family.

"We didn't sleep," Scott said.

"I didn't go out. I didn't answer the phone," Lisa said.

The family was startled to see news people with TV cameras outside their door. They were "kind of put off" by the invasiveness of the press, said Scott, who said he thought some reporters were on a "fishing trip" to try to get him to say something critical about the war.

Scott and Lisa Sparks, both 45, grew up in Monroeville together and were members of the Monroeville High class of 1980.

The couple said the support of the local community proved to be important.

"People started pouring in that day bringing food," Lisa said.

The two said they appreciate all of the letters they received from Jason's friends and all of the expressions of support.

"I haven't sat down and taken the time to write thank yous," Lisa said. "I can't do it without crying."

The family is left to wonder how long Jason would have stayed in the military and what he would have done afterward.

"He wanted to go to dental school, which cracks me up because he hated to go to the dentist," Scott said.

Scott said he still supports the war.

"I think we need to finish it. Terrorism is not going to go away," he said.

"We're so swayed by what we see on TV. I think we should be more aggressive and step it up and finish it," he said.

"We're doing a lot of good things over there," he said. "All that's reported is the bad stuff."

Lisa sounded less certain.

"Sometimes I'd like to see it just end. I'm kind of torn," she said.