James Michael Swink II
Petty Officer Third Class, United States Navy
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 777-10
DOD Identifies Navy Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Petty Officer 3rd Class James M. Swink, 20, of Yucca Valley, California, died Aug 27, 2010, while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Swink was a hospital corpsman assigned to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Forces.
For further information related to this release,
contact 2nd Marine Division Public Affairs at 910-450-6575.
Survivors include his parents, Jim and Laura Swink of San Angelo; sister Melissa Strickland of Abilene; and brothers Brian Mullins of Palm Springs, California, and John Swink Raphine of Raphine, Virginia.
SAN ANGELO, Texas — Jim Swink said his modest, unassuming son wouldn’t have wanted attention and accolades for doing his job.
As memorials were held for Navy Corpsman James Michael Swink II at places he served — Okinawa, Afghanistan and Camp Lejeune — his mother and father, Laura and Jim Swink of San Angelo, grieved quietly over his death.
In their apartment a thin black ribbon is taped to a framed photo of the sailor, placed there the day his brother called their parents to relay the news. Mike listed his brother as the point of contact in the event of his death.
“My boys are protective of me and they didn’t want someone to walk up to the door,” Jim Swink said.
Although no military personnel had to deliver the news, hundreds have offered their condolences.
At one point this week the Swinks had 700 e-mails from friends, family and people who had been touched in some way by their son, who was 20 years old when he died in Afghanistan.
“My husband and I are beyond overwhelmed at the respect that has been shown to our son by the Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps,” Laura Swink said.
Jim Swink, who served in the Navy and sailed the USS John F. Kennedy, enlisted when he was 17 and served from 1977 to 1986. Following in his footsteps were four children — two sons who became Marines, a daughter who joined the Air Force and Mike, his youngest, who enlisted in the Navy when he, too, was 17. He became the third generation to serve in that branch.
“To those two younger boys, their dad is their hero,” Laura Swink said.
His parents said Mike was in the gun turret
of a patrol vehicle when it went over rough terrain and flipped over on
top of him. A vehicle commander and the driver were both injured. The 2nd
Marine Division Public Affairs could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Swink and his family lived in San Angelo more than 20 years ago when Jim Swink opened a bait and tackle shop. They moved to California to be closer to his wife’s family, and Mike Swink graduated from Yucca Valley High School.
He was a hospital corpsman assigned to the 2nd Marine Division in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. No date had been set as of Tuesday.
While his family understands that serving one’s country is not for everybody, they said it was a perfect fit for their selfless son. Jim Swink said Mike’s compassion was clear even at a very young age when he would help elderly men and women in his community with house or yardwork, always refusing payment.
When he was 13, he signed up for Project RIDE, an nonprofit organization in California that provides therapeutic horseback riding lessons to children and adults with special needs.
“He said (he was there) because the children needed him,” his mother said.
Because he was the youngest and smallest in the class, he volunteered to muck stables until he grew up enough to lead horses. His parents said he also joined the California Fire Explorers when he was a teenager and learned how to save lives in that capacity.
“We always knew he wanted to care for others one way or another,” Jim Swink said.
Lieutenant Dave Pickens, a physician assistant stationed in Okinawa with Swink for two years, worked with Swink when he was “a brand new corpsman.”
“Great kid, great to work with,” said Pickens, who has been in the Navy for 18 years. “He was hungry to learn, he accepted any challenge you threw his way and he could light up a room when he walked in.”
As a former corpsman, Pickens would tell those he worked with he held them to a different standard than most because he knew what they were expected to do when they joined up with a Marine unit.
Corpsmen are essentially expected to be a Marine and a medic, Pickens said, which includes completing field med school and being held to the same physical standard as a Marine.
Swink and others in his position are trained with the mind set that they’re more than just the title given to them. Aside from solid medical knowledge, they have to have the moral character to work on men and women they know personally.
“It’s everything that goes along with being responsible for having another human being’s life in your hands,” Pickens said.
Corpsman are responsible for everything from “fever and sniffles” to patching someone up on the front line and placing them on a medevac.
Laura Swink said out of her children, she assumed Mike had the “safest” job. Even though he was in Afghanistan, she knows the Marines he worked with would have done anything to protect “her baby”.
“He always stood out. He’s always been the person who shined brightest,” Jim Swink said. “He lived more life than what most of us have lived at age 50.”
AFGHANISTAN — James Michael Swink of Yucca Valley, a petty officer 3rd class in the U.S. Navy, died while supporting combat operations in Helmand Province Friday. Swink was a hospital corpsman assigned to 2nd Marine Division, based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. His sister-in-law, Brandi Mullins, provided this tribute from his family:
August 26, 2010, was a day that will forever be imprinted in our hearts. It was the day HM3 Corpsman James Michael Swink laid down his life fighting for the country he loved.
James “Mike” Swink was a 2007 graduate of Yucca Valley High School. He enlisted in the United States Navy after high school and started his Navy career with pride and honor. After finishing boot camp at Great Lakes Naval station in Chicago, Ill., and serving two years overseas stationed in Okinawa, Japan, as a hospital corpsman, Mike decided to challenge himself even more and became an FMF Corpsman attached to a United States Marine Corps unit. He completed FMF training and was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines regiment and was deployed to Afghanistan this past July.
After six weeks of deployment, James Michael Swink paid the ultimate sacrifice and was killed in action doing what he loved.
James Michael Swink followed in the footsteps of many men who came before him — 112 years worth of men. He stood by his Marines with pride, honor and dedication and fulfilled the duties he was trained to do. He dedicated his heart, mind and strength to the work before him. He stood by the oath he dedicated himself to. The Oath of a Corpsman.
James would not want us to shed a tear, he’d want us to be proud of the man he was, and that was and is a hero. He’d want his fellow men to continue the mission at hand and not let his death be in vain.
Death is never easy to deal with. The task of understanding “why” is even more difficult. James arrived in Afghanistan to fulfill his duties as a member of our armed forces. He was there to protect and defend the country he so deeply loved. He loved the Navy as if it was the very blood that ran through his veins. It gave him life.
He turned any frown into a smile, and knew how to make someone feel his heart. This man fought for his country with a courage unlike any other. All who knew James knew what kind of man he was. Our family, friends and country have lost a great man, but heaven has gained an angel. One you can guarantee will be watching over each and every one of us.
James Michael Swink will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on 8 September 2010 at 10AM.
James is survived by his parents, Jim and Laura Swink of San Angelo, Texas; brother and sister-in-law John and Kristen Swink of Roanoke, Virginia; sister Melissa Strickland and her children, Mikayla and Amanda of Abilene, Texas; brother and sister-in-law Brian and Brandi Mullins and their children, Collin, ShayLynn, Kaitlan and Brooklin of Palm Springs; grandmother Delores Marshall of Shingle Springs; numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Navy Corpsman James Michael Swink provides medical care to a boy with a hurt foot in Afghanistan, as two of the boy’s friends move on. Swink, from Yucca Valley, deployed to the country six weeks ago with the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. (Family photo)
SWINK, JAMES M II
Posted: 2 September 2010 Updated: 8 November 2010 Updated: 26 November 2010 Updated: 8 July 2011
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 4 July 2011
Photos By Eileen Horan, November 2010
Photo Courtesy of Holly, November 2010