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Anchorage Daily News June 25, 2006

Marine modest about his heroism

SILVER STAR: Adams tells father his actions in battle were 'no big deal.'

By Joseph Ditzler

WASILLA -- Jarred Adams had some explaining to do.

Like how he earned a Silver Star in Iraq, for example.

For 1 ½ years, his father, Lance Adams, 49, of Everett, Wash., was happy enough that his son had survived a fierce firefight during which he received multiple wounds.

"When I found out he was hit, I was scared to death," the senior Adams said by phone Wednesday. He recalled the day last year when a Marine Corps official called with news that his son Sgt. Jarred Adams, 22, a scout sniper, had been wounded Jan. 6, 2005, in battle in Husaybah.

The caller had little other information.

"I was led on to believe he was hurt worse than he was," the father said. "I didn't know the extent of his injuries."

He found out the driver of the Humvee in which his son was riding had been seriously injured and the gunner killed.

Days later, Jarred, who was born in Palmer and grew up in and around Palmer and Wasilla, called from a military hospital in Germany.

"He sounded good," Lance Adams said. "He sounded OK. He didn't sound traumatized or anything. He sounded like a Marine. He sounded like he was going to do what it takes and he was ready to go right back."

Other than that, Jarred offered few details: A rocket-propelled grenade had come through the Humvee window and exploded. It happened at night.

"He didn't talk about it, any of it," his father said. "I really don't know the whole story. All he said to me was he got the Silver Star and I thought it was because of the fact he was wounded."

Of course, there was more to the story: The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action, gallantry performed with marked distinction.

But it would be many months before the father would hear -- from a newspaper reporter -- the full tale of his son's actions.

20 MINUTES

The story of Jarred Adams' actions that day in Iraq, which occurred during his second tour in the country, are part of the Marine Corps record now, contained in the paperwork accompanying his Silver Star and in a story written for a Corps news Web site. Adams, interviewed briefly Friday via a sketchy satellite phone connection from Iraq, filled in details.

Adams said he and his fellow Marines were on their way to a roadway in the city of Husaybah called the "intersection of death."

There, they were to provide cover while a Marine reconnaissance unit moved through the area, well-known for improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, he said. Adams and his comrades didn't reach their assigned position.

Husaybah, near the Iraq-Syria border, is known as a gateway for money, weapons and foreign fighters into Iraq, according to GlobalSecurity.org, a military news and information Web site.

The account written for the Marine Corps news Web site by Cpl. Antonio Rosas says insurgents attacked Adams' squad with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Adams' vehicle crashed. Armed with his M40 sniper rifle and 9mm pistol, Adams returned fire, Rosas, a 7th Marines public affairs specialist, explained by e-mail. Marines freed the crashed vehicle and Adams, a corporal at the time, and his squad turned to retrieve another Humvee disabled in the fight, according to Rosas' online account.

"That's when a rocket-propelled grenade struck Adams' vehicle, killing one Marine and wounding others inside. Adams received shrapnel from the blast as well as burns from the vehicle, which was set ablaze," according to Rosas' account.

His left forearm and hands received shrapnel wounds; his right arm was broken and he had sprained an ankle exiting the burning Humvee, Jarred Adams said.

After taking cover, Adams realized that Lance Cpl. Julio C. CisnerosAlvarez, 22, of Pharr, Texas, had been left inside the Humvee. Running through enemy fire, Adams returned to the vehicle to find CisnerosAlvarez had died.

He recovered CisnerosAlvarez's body and hustled back to safety, all the time exposed to enemy fire. The whole episode lasted maybe 20 minutes, across 1 ¼ miles.

AWESTRUCK

"Wow. I've never heard the story," Adams' father said Wednesday after a reporter read him Rosas' account. "I didn't know he actually did that. I'm totally awestruck and so proud of him. I've got tears in my eyes."

Lance Adams, a union carpenter who installs commercial millwork, was at a loss to explain why his son after so many months hadn't detailed for him his actions that day in Iraq.

"Maybe he didn't think much about it," the father said. "Maybe he thought that's what he's supposed to do."

Friday, Jarred called his father from Iraq. According to the elder Adams, his son explained, "I was a Marine, Dad. I didn't think it was any big deal."

"He was a little modest, I guess," Lance Adams said.

After his recovery, during which he spent some time in Alaska, Adams returned for this third tour in Iraq.

Lance Adams said he sends his son care packages every so often that are laden with chewing tobacco, oatmeal, nuts, socks, coffee and sardines, which Jarred doesn't like, "but I send them anyway because I like them."

PALMER ROOTS

Lance Adams said he was born in Palmer but left Alaska in the 1980s after the family business, Terrace Kitchens, went bottom-up. He said he has no contact with his ex-wife, Jarred's mother, Jacqueline Vaughn, who lives in Alaska.

Jarred too was born in Palmer and spent his youth partly in Washington and partly in Alaska, where he graduated in 2002 from Valley Pathways, an alternative school.

A younger sister, Ashley Adams, lives in California; two younger brothers, Zachary Adams and Noah Jess Gershmel, live in the Valley, along with scores of other members of his father's family, including his grandmother and grandfather.

Jarred said he may re-enlist and become an instructor at the Marine sniper school; he may get out, get his degree and become an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration. He plans to return to Alaska and reconnect with his brothers, he said.

"He loves Alaska," Jarred's father said.

His son enjoyed snowboarding and other outdoor activities but wasn't a hunter or fisherman, Lance Adams recalled.

"He was a good shooter with a BB gun. Since he was fairly little, he wanted to be a Marine," he said. Jarred said the emphasis on marksmanship drew him to the snipers.

Adams' interest in a military career was no secret to the staff at Valley Pathways, said Kelly Sidebottom, an administrative secretary there.

"He was just very focused on that," she said.

In fact, she said, Jarred, a "really good guy," never bothered to pick up his diploma: "He was just interested in graduating and getting on with life."

His father said he looks forward to the day Jarred is discharged from the Marines.

"I was definitely apprehensive about his becoming a Marine, but I knew how much he wanted to do it," Lance Adams said. "I took him to the recruiter."

DUE FOR A BREAK

Jarred talked matter-of-factly about his life as a Marine sniper, a deadly discipline. He said life in Iraq is boring, for the most part. Between assignments, he and his fellow Marines "just hang out, play cards, watch movies." The temperature reaches above 100 these summer days.

His unit's job is "to maintain a presence in the area, and try and locate and prevent any enemy insurgents from moving around in the area and conducting their usual operations."

"We do a lot of surveillance," he said.

He said winning a distinctive honor has done little to change the way his peers relate to him. The junior Marines show a little more respect, though, he said.

The war took no time off for Sgt. Adams. He said activity in his area is picking up. The base, in an Iraqi town called Al Qa'im, is located about 200 miles northwest of Baghdad. The towns of Fallujah and Haditha, familiar names in the news, are nearby.

"We're getting IEDs and we actually took mortars a couple nights ago," he said.

First Battalion, 7th Marines is due to return to its home base, Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., in September. Adams, finishing his third tour of duty in Iraq, is ready to come home.

"Three times in four years is enough," he said.

Daily News reporter Becky Stoppa contributed to this report.


Copyright 2006, The Anchorage Daily News, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Company