Army Tells Dad His Soldier-Son Killed in War … But He Wasn't Tuesday,
September 15, 2009
Print BUFFALO, New York - An Army unit is reviewing how it delivers
information to families after a call to a western New York couple led them
to believe their son had been killed in combat.
Ray Jasper of Niagara Falls said he, his wife, Robin, and their extended
family spent four hours Sunday mourning their son, Sgt. Jesse Jasper, before
learning from his girlfriend that he was alive.
The 26-year-old soldier called his father from Afghanistan to prove it after
hearing about the mix-up.
"Dad what's going on?" Jesse Jasper asked.
"I said, 'Oh my God you're alive, I love you, I love you, I love you, you're
alive,"' Ray Jasper, 49, said Tuesday.
An Army spokesman with Jasper's unit said officials may revise the written
scripts used by volunteer liaisons to inform all families of any deaths
within the unit to avoid similar misunderstandings in the future.
The nightmare started about 2 p.m. Sunday when Ray Jasper, while on a family
camping trip, got an urgent message from a family liaison from his son's
unit in the 82nd Airborne Division, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
When he reached the liaison – the wife of a soldier deployed with Jasper's
son – she told him she had a "red line message" that she needed to read to
"She said, 'I'm sorry to inform you that on Sept. 12, that Sgt. Judin and
Sgt. Jesse Jasper were killed in Afghanistan,"' Ray Jasper recounted.
"My wife was talking to me at the time and I said, 'say that again,' and she
said the same thing over again. I couldn't do any more. I hit the floor," he
Jasper knew the military's policy is to notify families in person when a
soldier has been killed, but after being away all weekend, he thought
someone might have called after finding no one home.
The Jaspers were given a number to call for details but decided they would
not dial it until after making the trip home and assembling other family
members. As family and friends gathered, others posted condolence messages
Jasper's girlfriend in North Carolina saw the postings and called the
"She was screaming to me, 'He's not dead! He's not dead!"' Jasper said. "I
said, 'How do you know this?' She said, 'I just got off the phone with him.'
Their son called soon after.
A spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division said Jasper's unit, through its
family readiness group, notifies all families of deaths within the unit to
prevent undue worry and misinformation. Maj. Brian Fickel said callers are
instructed to read from a written script to prevent misinterpretation.
In this case, families were being notified of the death of Sgt. Tyler Judin,
a 23-year-old from Winfield, Kansas.
Fickel said the script used Sunday began: "Sgt. Tyler A. Judin … was
killed in action while conducting combat operations in support of bravo
troop 473 cav." It went on to say Judin's family had been notified and
services would be scheduled.
"I can't speculate on how it was transmitted or how it was received," Fickel
said, "but during that process the results speak for themselves. The family
believed their son was killed."
The family liaison said she was not able to read the complete message before
the call to the Jaspers was terminated, according to Fickel.
"I don't know why they would tell us about someone else's tragedy," said Ray
Fickel said the unit is considering starting the scripts with "your son or
daughter is fine." Internal jargon like "red line message" will probably go,