Jason Michael Butkus
Staff Sergeant, United States Army
NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Staff Sergeant. Jason M. Butkus, 34, of West Milford, New Jersey, died August 30, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas.
For more information related to this release,
the media may contact the Fort Riley public affairs office at (785) 239-3410.
Army Staff Sgt. Jason M. Butkus of West Milford was remembered Saturday as a lively, funny, chivalrous, well-read, adventurous, all-around stand-up guy.
Members of his Iraq unit painted a more formidable
picture during a nearly two-hour memorial service at the West Milford Elks
Lodge for Butkus, who was killed in Iraq on Aug. 30.
"A hard and outspoken man," read one of the memorial messages posted at the front podium. "He made life miserable for us, but we loved him for it," read another.
The key to Jay, said his old West Milford High School classmate Mike Monroe, was that he was both.
"Hard as nails, soft as velvet," said Monroe, who graduated with Butkus in 1991. "He was a warrior poet. Spirit of a warrior, heart of a poet, mind of a scholar. They came together in Jay."
Butkus, 34, was killed in Baghdad when his Humvee was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. He was the second serviceman from West Milford killed in Iraq. Marine Lance Cpl. Brian P. Parrello, 19, was killed in Al Anbar province in 2005.
"Yes, he died too young," West Milford Mayor Joe DiDonato said during the service. "But the ultimate burden of guardianship falls on the young."
The much-decorated Butkus, who will be awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge posthumously, will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Sept. 24.
On Saturday, about 300 friends, loved ones and well-wishers paid their respects at an often-emotional outdoor service at the Elks Lodge.
Guns were fired, a bagpipe played "Amazing Grace" and four members of the New Jersey National Guard presented the colors to his mother, Cheryl Bohn of Old Bridge and his 9-year-old son, Connor Butkus.
Members of American Legion Post 289, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7198 of West Milford participated in the ceremony, as did the Patriot Guard Riders, the West Milford Veterans and fire companies from Vernon Township and West Milford.
"I place this symbol of purity," VFW commander Patrick J. Loughman said as he ceremonially draped a sprig of baby's breath in front of a large photo of Butkus. "And may each future generation emulate the unselfish devotion to duty, even to the last of our comrades."
Butkus, who served in the 1st Infantry Division, enlisted in the Army in 1995 and served in Alaska and South Korea before beginning his Iraq tour in February.
A patriot, a tough guy devoted to his duty, and a man with a strong sense of right and wrong -- that picture emerged from speaker after speaker.
"One of the things that attracted both of us to fantasy stories growing up was the setting, a world of good and evil, where the lines between the two were not blurred," said his friend Michael C. Dalelio. "Maybe he realized that the only place he could be a man, in the way he wanted to be, was in a war,"
But people also recalled a joker, a brainy guy with a taste for history and Shakespeare, a good buddy and a loving brother.
"He was very fun, adventurous and belligerent," said his sister Vanessa Butkus of Bloomingdale.
She recalled that her brother, who as a child was afraid of heights and trembled at the thought of climbing a lighthouse, deliberately conquered his fear by becoming a paratrooper.
"He led me by a strong example of bravery," she said.
"Jason always came to my rescue," she said.
In addition to his mother, son and sister, Butkus is survived by his stepfather, Edward Bohn of Old Bridge; by his father, Michael Butkus of Houston; his former wife, Amanda Butkus of Fairbanks, Alaska; and another sister, Tonya Butkus of West Milford.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations
be sent to the West Milford Elks for the Jason M. Butkus Memorial Fund,
1860 Union Valley Road, West Milford, NJ 07480.
Sergeant's Interests Evolved Into Decorated 12-Year Career
By Mark Berman
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Army Staff Sergeant Jason Butkus loved history, traveling and serving his country, and he discovered that he could merge those passions in the military.
On August 30, 2007, after more than a dozen
years of service, Butkus, 34, was killed in Baghdad when insurgents attacked
his Humvee with a rocket-propelled grenade. He was a father and a son whose
journey took him all over the world before ending yesterday with his burial
in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery.
"He was my only son, and I loved him very much, and he's gone," his grief-stricken mother, Cheryl Bohn, said in a telephone interview from her home in New Jersey last week. "In service to his country."
Butkus, of West Milford, New Jersey, was the 369th military person killed in Iraq to be buried at Arlington. More than 100 mourners gathered under a clear blue sky to say goodbye, some shielding their eyes from the bright midday sun. The crowd stood while seven riflemen fired three shots each; some of those watching saluted, and others placed their hands over their hearts.
After taps rang out from a bugler, the flag that had draped Butkus's coffin was folded. It and a second flag were presented to his mother and to his father, Michael Butkus.
Butkus was born in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and raised in West Milford. He ran track and wrestled at West Milford High School, and he enlisted in the Army in 1995.
Butkus had served in North Carolina, South Carolina, Korea and Alaska before joining his current unit in October. He was with an airborne division and an infantry division and used his experience to teach others as a training instructor at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Most recently, Butkus was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley, Kansas.
"Our family is saddened and our hearts are heavy with grief," his family said in a statement. "He was a wonderful and caring son and a loving father to his own son, Connor.
"We were so lucky to have him for nearly 35 years. He died doing what he loved, serving in uniform as an infantry" noncommissioned officer.
Butkus was a highly decorated soldier, having been awarded more than a dozen medals and numerous ribbons and badges for his varied and extensive service. Among them were four Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals and the Humanitarian Service Medal, and he will be posthumously given the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
His mother and stepfather, Edward Bohn, live in Old Bridge, New Jersey; his younger sisters, Tonya and Vanessa Butkus, also live in New Jersey.
His ex-wife, Amanda, and son, Connor, 9, live in Fairbanks, Alaska.
In the statement, the family added: "Our entire family is extremely proud of his service. Jason will always be a hero to us; and he will be deeply missed by his family and by his many friends."
BUTKUS, JASON MICHAEL
Posted: 11 September 2007 Updated: 24 September 2007 Updated: 26 September 2007 Updated: 27 Sepember 2007 Updated: 30 September 2007 Updated: 5 November 2007
Updated: 13 May 2008
Photo By Michael Robert Patterson, May 2008
Photo Courtesy of Holly, November 2007
Photos Courtesy of Holly, September 2007