Douglas J Jeffries Jr
September 8, 2011
Killed when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device Sept. 8 in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
|Spc. aspired to be a forest firefighter
By David Castellon
Visalia (Calif.) Times-Delta
VISALIA, Calif. — Friends and neighbors of a soldier from Springville killed recently in Afghanistan will put on a public memorial service for the man in his hometown.
Chris Ferrell, pastor of Lighthouse Chapel in Springville, said community residents organized the event at the Springville Veterans Memorial Building to honor Spc. Douglas J. Jeffries Jr., 20, killed Sept. 7 along with another soldier from California during an attack involving an improvised explosive device in the city of Kandahar city.
Jeffries joined the Army in late 2009 after graduating from Porterville High School. He deployed to Afghanistan six months ago.
Before shipping out, Ferrell said Jeffries came home and attended a Sunday service at his small church, which his grandmother regularly attends.
He said the young man was in his full dress uniform, “and we prayed for him and asked for God’s blessing and protection for him on that trip.”
Ferrell said Jeffries aspired to become a forest firefighter and figured a stint in the Army was his best chance of achieving that goal, but he also wanted to serve his country.
Jeffries was well known in Springville, not only because most people know each other in such a small community but also because as a teenager he worked at The Hamburger Stand, one of only two restaurants in the town.
The Defense Department hasn’t provided more detailed information about the attack that killed Jeffries and Spc. Koran Contreras, age 21, of Lawndale.
Both he and Jeffries were infantrymen with the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
Jeffries’ former boss, Janelle Stark, owner of The Hamburger Stand, said Jeffries was engaged to be married to a woman he met after he enlisted.
His father, Douglas Jeffries Sr., of Springville, declined Wednesday to talk about his son or the circumstances of his death.
Jeffries’ body was flown Sept. 9 to the Air Force Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Air Force officials wouldn’t say when Jeffries is scheduled to be transported to California.
Douglas Jeffries Sr. said he was attempting to arrange for his son’s older brother, also in the military, to accompany the body home from Delaware. No funeral arrangements had yet been made.
Jeffries is the first military member from Springville killed while deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, Ferrell said, adding that news of his death has hit residents there hard.
“It’s a small town. Everybody knows everybody, pretty much.” he said. “He was just a good young man. The shock of why him is what everybody’s dealing with.”
His death also affected people at Porterville High.
During lunch Sept. 14, about 200 students and about a dozen teachers gathered around the school’s flagpole, set at half staff in honor of Jeffries, along with other flags in the school district and at Tulare County buildings.
Principal Steve Graybehl said Jeffries’ former agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, Todd Coons, read a “moving” essay about the young man. After that, a student musician played taps and students released dozens of balloons in his honor.
On Sept. 9, Jeffries was mentioned during a 9/11 10th anniversary ceremony at Springville Union Elementary School, where he attended as a boy.
“In the conversations we’ve had, we’re all saddened,” Graybehl said.
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