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Local Soldier Killed in Iraq

by DJ Monday, Nov. 15, 2004 at 2:52 AM

Flintridge Prep standout dies in Iraq. J.P. Blecksmith, 24, '99 graduate of Flintridge Preparatory School, was part of U.S. military campaign in Fallouja.

Flintridge Prep standout dies in Iraq

J.P. Blecksmith, 24, '99 graduate of Flintridge Preparatory School, was part of U.S. military campaign in Fallouja.

By Ryan Carter

News-Press and Leader

November 13, 2004

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Edward Blecksmith knows war. As a Marine during the Vietnam War, he saw the carnage. But he never knew a day like Thursday.

That was the day — Veterans Day — when he and his family found out that his son, J.P. Blecksmith, was killed in Iraq.

Blecksmith, 24, a 1999 graduate and former standout quarterback at Flintridge Preparatory School in La Cañada Flintridge, was killed Thursday afternoon during a military operation in Fallouja, Iraq, his father said.

Blecksmith, a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps and a platoon commander, was apparently in an area of the besieged city to clear out pockets of insurgents when he was shot from behind, his father said.

"Somebody got behind his platoon," Edward Blecksmith said. "He was moving the platoon and barking commands. [The insurgents] got behind him and shot him in the back."

Blecksmith was part of a U.S. military campaign, in conjunction with Iraqi forces, that began five days ago to take control of Fallouja, which has been a bastion of persistent insurgent violence in Iraq.

On Friday, a devastated family and community were still absorbing the shock of the news.

"I've got a hole in my stomach," Edward Blecksmith said from the family home in San Marino. "He'll never be home again."

By all accounts, Blecksmith was a leader who left an impression on his school, friends and family as big as his 6-foot-3-inch frame.

He graduated from Flintridge Preparatory in 1999, after a standout career as the quarterback for the school's football team. He also ran track. He had an arm that could throw 60-yard passes, but earned SAT scores that allowed him to choose if he wanted to go Ivy League schools, his father said. But Blecksmith chose the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., which he graduated from in 2003, and soon after became a Marine. He had been in Iraq for two months and in the Marines for more than a year.

"There is no way to tie a bow on this, but this was the life he imagined for himself and worked to achieve," said Flintridge Preparatory Headmaster Peter Bachmann said. "I think we can admire the fact that he walked the talk and that he lived the life he believed was the proper life for him. He believed serving his country was his highest calling."

In a Sept. 28, 2001, article in the Glendale News-Press, Blecksmith's commitment was clear as he spoke about the attacks of Sept. 11: "I can't ever forget what I saw on the TV screen," he said. "I don't think anyone can. It felt like I was watching a movie. If it means going to war for those people [that died], I'm willing to do that."

The Flintridge Prep student body was informed of Blecksmith's death Friday during an announcement at the end of an assembly. A moment of silence was offered in his memory, Bachmann said.

"For many of [the students] this is the first time that the war has come home to them, and I think they are still absorbing the shock," Bachmann said.

Those broken up from the news included his former coaches, who were in mourning Friday as they prepared for the team's season finale against Webb High School in Claremont.

Bachmann said the school is planning to establish a memorial scholarship in Blecksmith's name.

Edward Blecksmith last communicated with his son through an e-mail Monday.

"I think he was pensive," Edward Blacksmith said. "That's not atypical of young men [going into battle] for the first time. It's understandable."

On Friday, J.P. Blecksmith's older brother, Alex, reflected on the man he called his hero.

"I just feel he was too good a person to not be on this earth," he said. "I'm his older brother, but … he left me some pretty big shoes to fill."

And a sad father spoke in a shaking voice about his worst day. He'd though he'd seen the worst he could see when his own Marine platoon took the brunt of an attack in Vietnam. The aftermath of that attack was devastating, he said.

"I'd always viewed it as the worst day of my life," he said. "Losing J.P. is 10 times worse."

J.P. Blecksmith is survived by his parents, Pam and Edward; brother Alex, 25; and sister, Christina, 27. Funeral services are being arranged.

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Pasadena Star News Article DJ Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2004 at 2:07 AM
Funeral Info DJ Friday, Nov. 19, 2004 at 11:50 PM
News-Press Article DJ Monday, Nov. 22, 2004 at 12:20 AM
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