Justin D. Ross
Corporal, United States Army
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 244-11
DOD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Corporal Justin D. Ross, 22, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, died March 26, 2011, in Helmand province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by small arms fire. He was assigned to the 863rd Engineer Battalion, Wausau, Wisconsin.
For more information, the media may contact Lieutenant Col. Nathan Banks, 364th Public Affairs Operations Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at 856-693-1217.
UPDATE: March 30, 2011 -- Specialist
Ross was posthumously promoted to Corporal.
Specialist Justin D. Ross, 22, was shot and killed when his unit came under fire from insurgents in Helmand province, said Lieutenant Colonel Col. Nathan Banks of the 364th Public Affairs Operations Center.
He was assigned to the 863rd Engineer Battalion of Wausau. His unit specializes in route clearance, the first soldiers to enter an area before more units move in.
Ross was promoted posthumously to Corporal.
A spokesman for New Freedom Church in Howard said that its pastor, Ron Ross, and his wife, Debbie, flew to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, on March 27, 2011, for the return of their son’s body.
“Being this soon into the grieving process, you are still in shock,” said Gerald Heins, the assistant pastor at New Freedom. “You are still trying to make sense of it, trying to understand what happened.”
Justin Ross was a 2007 graduate of Bay Port High School and joined the military October 26, 2007.
Ross was deployed in August 2010 and has been in Afghanistan since October. His unit was scheduled to return between August and September.
While the investigation into Ross’ death is ongoing, preliminary reports say his unit came under small arms fire from insurgents while on a route clearance mission. Ross was the only casualty, and the first of his unit.
“[Route clearance] is a dangerous job soldiers do day in, day out,” Banks said. “They clear obstacles for soldiers to get past and carry on their mission. These guys encounter fire every day.”
Ross’ unit had high praise for their fallen brother, Banks said.
“He was an outstanding soldier. He loved to be in the Army and he loved what he did and he loved working with his follow soldiers,” Banks said. “His unit is going to miss him.”
Heins said Ross will be remembered as a wonderful man who was proud to serve his country.
“From what I understand, he really enjoyed it,” Heins said. “He loved the guys from his squad and he enjoyed the process and the idea of being able to defend his country.”
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Specialist Justin Ross who lost his life serving his country yesterday in Afghanistan,” Governor Scott Walker said in a statement. “We hope that they are able to take some measure of comfort in knowing that he is a Wisconsin hero.”
Before leaving for Delaware, Ron Ross wrote
on his Facebook page, “We thank God for freedom and all those ... who have
paid the ultimate price. We are proud of you Justin!”
In her hands she held the identification patches of her boyfriend, Tye Gouin, and Theodore Kulas, who were with Ross when he was killed in Afghanistan on March 26. She would wait in line with more than 200 people and give the patches to Ross’ parents.
She said Gouin, also a member of the Army Reserve, phoned her March 27 to tell her that they came under small-arms fire when Ross, a 22-year-old graduate of Bay Port High School, was killed.
The visitation was held at First Assembly of God in Green Bay because the church where Ross’ father, Ron, is pastor — New Freedom Church in Howard — isn’t big enough to handle what turned out to be a large number of well-wishers.
The line formed in the foyer of the church, then led into the nave of the church where Ross’ family stood in front of Justin’s flag-draped coffin. Two honor guards stood at attention next to the coffin.
Not everyone who came out on the chilly afternoon knew Justin or his family.
Bud Figgins of Bellevue, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, came with his wife, Becky, because he knows about the sacrifice that was made.
“We think we need to be here because somebody has to remember the fallen,” Figgins said.
Katharine Carter and her son, Derren, of Pulaski knew Justin.
“He often came over to our house and I always had some food ready,” she said. “We’re here because he gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Those entering the church passed more than
a dozen veterans who stood at attention holding American flags.
The symbolic roll call for members of Ross’ Army unit opened a somber military honors funeral for the 22-year-old Howard soldier, who was killed March 26 in Afghanistan.
Seven soldiers fired a three-volley rifle salute and another played “Taps” while six honor guards folded the American flag that had draped Ross’ casket. Brig. General Charles Martin of the 372nd Engineering Brigade of Fort Snelling, Minnesota, presented the flag to Ross’ family.
“Now I see what freedom costs; I won’t take that for granted,” Ross’ brother, Nathan Ross, told well-wishers.
Ross, the son of the Rev. Ron and Debbie Ross, was on a route-clearing mission when his unit came under small-arms fire. Ross was the only U.S. casualty.
The two-hour funeral on April 4 was held at First Assembly rather than at Ross’s father’s church, the New Freedom Church in Howard, to accommodate the hundreds of friends, family members and fellow soldiers who turned out to pay their respects.
Ross’s grandfather, the Rev. Robert Ross of Montana, told the congregation the loss of his grandson was like the trials and tribulations thrust upon Jacob and Job of the Bible’s Old Testament.
The challenge is to understand that “for some things, there are no human answers,” Robert Ross said. “We have to leave this place and say, ‘God is still God’ ... and I’m not going to allow my spirit to become bitter.”
First Sgt. Derek Andrasic presented 10 posthumous military awards to Ross, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service medals.
“In a theater of war, the safest place to be is right behind us, the 428th, whose motto is ‘clear the way,’ ” Andrasic said. “Justin Ross will be right with us, leading the way, clearing the way for us.”
Following the funeral, a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” while an honor guard carried Ross’ casket to a temporary shelter outside the church. At least 50 elementary school children gathered on the sidewalk across the street from the ceremony to watch.
Ron Ross said his family was awestruck by the outpouring of community support.
Ross will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
ROSS, JUSTIN D
Posted: 25 April 2011 Updated: 5 June 2011
Photos By Eileen Horan, May 2011
Photos By Eileen Horan, April 2011