Tuesday, September 15, 2009

U.S. soldier alive despite word to family

Raymond Jasper of Niagara Falls, N.Y., received a call telling him his son had been killed in Afghanistan. Hours later, the family learned it had been a misunderstanding.
WASHINGTON — Raymond Jasper was on a camping trip in New York state with his wife, Robin, when he got a phone call about his son, a soldier in Afghanistan.

"I saw the look on his face, and I asked him, 'Is Jesse hurt? How bad is he hurt," Robin Jasper recalled Monday. "He said, 'He's dead.'

He dropped the phone, and we both hit the floor sobbing."

It wasn't true.

Their son, Staff Sgt. Jesse Jasper, 26, had not been killed in Afghanistan. The Army says the incorrect news was delivered to the Niagara Falls, N.Y., family by mistake by a member of an informal military support group. And it has the Jaspers looking for some answers.

"No family should have to go through this," Robin Jasper said.

Lt. Col. George Wright, an Army spokesman, said the Army does not notify families of soldiers' deaths by phone. An officer and a chaplain meet with families in person to break the news, he said.

Wright said the error came from a support group outside the Pentagon that helps families cope with a death.

"It was not malicious," Wright said.

The Pentagon said it is taking the incident seriously and was looking further into the matter, said WGRZ-TV in Buffalo.

But the Jaspers cannot forget the four hours they thought their son was gone.

During the phone call, the Jaspers were given a phone number to get more details about their son's death. But they decided to wait. Family and friends started to gather at their home and food was prepared for those mourning his death. Someone posted the news on Facebook.

It was then they got a call from Jesse's girlfriend, who saw the notice on Facebook. She said she had just talked to Jesse. He was alive. Raymond Jasper called the number he had for the military. His wife thought he was in denial when he told her, "He's alive!"

The Jaspers eventually talked to their son.

The man who died whose name was confused with Jasper's was Sgt. Tyler Juden, 23, of Winfield, Kan. He died Saturday in Turan, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked the unit with grenades and small-arms fire, according to the Pentagon. Juden was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

"Our hearts go out to his family," Robin Jasper said of Juden. "We're praying for them."

"It was the worst four hours of my life," Robin Jasper said.

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