2nd Cav soldier killed in Afghanistan remembered at ceremony
Stars and Stripes September 2, 2010
VILSECK, Germany — Members of the Vilseck community paid their respects Thursday to Spc. Justin B. Shoecraft, the first member of 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment to be killed in Afghanistan since the unit deployed earlier this summer.
Shoecraft, 28, of Elkhart, Ind., died Aug. 24 after his Stryker armored vehicle struck a bomb, military officials said.
“I will always remember Justin, his sense of humor, his laugh and his selfless personality,” his friend, Pfc. John Juliano, said during the ceremony. “Most of all, I will remember the love he had for his wife, Jessica. She was his world. He truly cherished her and spoke of her constantly and couldn’t wait for our work to be done so he could be with her.”
Lt. Col. Douglas Sims, 1st Squadron commander, said Shoecraft was involved in a clearance operation in the Dorafshan area north of Tirin Kot in Uruzgan province when he was killed. Shoecraft was moving his vehicle into a position to watch over other soldiers when it struck the bomb, Sims said.
He was airlifted by helicopter to receive further medical attention, but died of his injuries.
A letter from Sims was read during the ceremony remembering the first time he ever met Shoecraft on a snowy morning in Germany.
Heading to work that morning, Sims saw Shoecraft walking on the side of the road and stopped to give him a ride. Shoecraft got in the truck, not knowing that it was his squadron commander’s vehicle.
“I could see it register on his face,” Sims said in the letter. “And knew he was wondering if the walk through the cold might be a better option.”
It was during this trip and many training occasions afterward that Sims said he learned Shoecraft’s true character.
“I learned of Shoe’s joy in working on cars, trucks and motorcycles,” he said. “I became aware of his tremendous love for [his unit]. And I found that love was surpassed only by the love he had for his wife, Jessica.”
The somber ceremony had a sudden change in atmosphere when Juliano mentioned Shoecraft’s love for M&Ms.
During a training event in Grafenwöhr, an NCO was unable to get Shoecraft out of the driver seat of their vehicle. Juliano then approached the vehicle’s window with a bag of M&Ms and Shoecraft immediately jumped from the driver’s hatch of the vehicle, said Juliano.
Shoecraft, who was posthumously promoted to specialist, is survived by his wife, and parents, Blue and Donna.