With saddened heart, I read the news of the recent passing of a Gold Star Mother.
Army SGT Jason W. Swiger was killed in action on 03/25/07. His mother, Valorie Swiger, was always active in supporting the United States Military. When Jason deployed in 2003, she hung yellow ribbons throughout the city, which landed her in a battle with the South Portland City Council. She eventually removed the ribbons. After city officials learned of her son’s death, boxes and boxes of yellow ribbons were unpacked and hung all over the city.
This past Thursday, January 12, after a brief illness, Valorie joined her sweet son in heaven.
Valorie achieved so many things during her life, but most importantly she was a mother. Jason Swiger had three sisters and two brothers. Valorie’s loving and nurturing heart played a role in the lives of over 100 foster children throughout the years.
SGT Swiger was on his third tour in Iraq, assigned to the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg. He had wanted to go Airborne since he was a boy, following in the footsteps of his uncle who retired from the 82nd Airborne after 23 years of service. Young Jay would visit his uncle’s house where he could sit on the porch and see paratroopers jumping out of planes.
Swiger and three other paratroopers were killed by an explosion in Baqouba — a town of 280,000 people — in Diyala Province. The soldiers had stopped their Humvee as they traveled in a convoy between two military camps. The men had left the protection of their Humvee to hand out candy to a group of Iraqi children when a suicide bomber on a scooter detonated an IED.
Valorie Swiger saw the news of the attack that day but it wasn’t until later that she was made aware her son was one of those killed. Valorie spoke of her son: “He loved what he was doing,” “It was meaningful (to him) because it meant we could be free and his nieces and nephews would not have to be afraid.”
The day after learning her son had paid the ultimate sacrifice, with her grief still so very raw, Valorie walked into the Army recruiting office and expressed her gratitude to the recruiter who had helped guide her son and thanked the soldiers present in that office for ensuring our freedoms. Those noble men then accompanied her out into the city to hang yellow ribbons in her son’s memory and to honor all of those serving overseas.
At the memorial for the 24 year old soldier, SGT Swiger’s blue Stetson with a yellow hat cord sat on an M-4 rifle.
Jason Swiger enjoyed poetry- the young man met his wife at a poetry reading at a coffeehouse. He was handsome and lovable, tall and thin with sandy blond hair, goofy and always looking to joke around and make others smile.
Proof of how loved he was is in this quote I found from his sister: “Picture the greatest guy you ever met and multiply it times 10,” Becka said. Their cousin, Kalie corrected her. “Times a million,” Kalie said.
With his signature smirk and a deep laugh, the romantic Maine boy sent home mail while deployed that was part love note and part pep talk for his young bride. A member of South Portland High School’s class of 2000, his family says this artistic, fun loving kid would’ve been a journalist if he hadn’t found his calling in the Army.
Boys don’t just become romantic individuals. The positive impact of how they were raised, and the role models they had, is what creates that. As mother to a romantic son, I’ll bear personal witness that while I won’t normally take credit for the young man my child is becoming, in my heart I know it to be true that credit is due.
Valorie is the reason Jay was so amazing.
As I looked into the stories that have been shared, it was a reflection post found on TSP’s website that really brought me to tears. For it was in that post that I could see who Valorie Swiger was and why she had been so successful in raising amazing children.
Here is an excerpt from that post:
Today, I’m playing Jay’s favorite song on repeat. The Steve Miller Band tune they say he’d always sing at karaoke night when he was home between deployments. “Some people call me the space cowboy, some call me the gangster of love….”
Today, I’ll tie a yellow ribbon around a tree in my yard, for Jay and Valorie. Won’t you join me? Remember them with the honor they deserve.