Remembering the fallen

A tribute to troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan

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Michael Robert Jarrett

Killed on Jan. 6, 2010

Pfc. Michael Jarrett considered himself a North Platte boy, friends and family say, making friends and maturing there during a road trip that swept him from California to central Nebraska and eventually landed him in the U.S. Army.

That journey into adulthood ended Jan. 6 in Balad, Iraq, when the 20-year-old mechanic died in what the Army is calling “a noncombat accident.”

The Army continued Wednesday to investigate Jarrett’s death, leaving his family and closest friends to try to piece together what had happened and what had gone wrong.

“He joined the Army because he felt like he needed some direction in his life. He needed a purpose,” said his mother, Brenda Jarrett. “And he really seemed to benefit from it.”

Jarrett lived in North Platte for less than two years, friends and family said, but his time there was pivotal in getting him interested in a military career.

He arrived in Nebraska on something of a whim, when friend Andy Clark announced that he was moving to North Platte to care for a sick uncle. Jarrett decided to tag along after he graduated from high school in Ramona, Calif., in June 2007.

He worked at the Walmart distribution center in North Platte and later got a job at a Casey’s General Store, friends said.

Most nights, you could find Jarrett and his friends holed up in the basement of the two-story house they rented, playing “Halo” together on XBox Live.

On weekends, they often drove to McCook, playing in Magic: The Gathering tournaments and meeting people.

During his time in North Platte, Jarrett thought more and more about a military career, friends said. He liked the Army recruiter who befriended him. He liked the idea of making more than minimum wage, said North Platte friend Nathan Vogt, a veteran who often talked with Jarrett about the wages and lifestyle of the military.

Jarrett joined the Army in August 2008 and soon found himself in Germany, repairing helicopters.

“He loved working on those Apaches,” said Clark. “The military really seemed like it was helping him straighten up, you know. It seemed like it helped him focus.”

Jarrett was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, based in Illesheim, Germany.

He didn’t want to go to Iraq, Clark said. Once in Balad last May, he complained of boredom and confided in Clark that he felt unsafe.

Jarrett is the 76th service member with ties to Nebraska or western Iowa to die in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001. His funeral is scheduled for Jan. 23 at Bonham Brothers & Stewart Mortuary in Ramona, Calif.

For now, his friends and family are waiting for answers about what happened.

“All I know is that this is tough,” Vogt said Wednesday from North Platte. “I’m just so shocked.”

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