Thursday, March 15, 2001

Serviceman killed in Kuwait survived Ft. Campbell crash

By Michelle Saxton
The Associated Press

        CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A soldier from Wisconsin who was killed during a bombing range accident in Kuwait was a father of two and had been seriously injured in an Army helicopter crash in Kentucky.

        Spc. Jason D. Wildfong, 29, of Union Grove, Wis., who had spent several months in West Virginia and listed that as his home state, was among six people who died during the misplaced air strike Monday.

        Spc. Wildfong, an explosives ordnance disposal technician based in Fort Lewis, Wash., was in the Army for about 10 years, his grandfather, Jay Wildfong Sr. said Wednesday.

        “He had planned to make the Army his career,” he said. “And I guess you could say it was.”

        Jason Wildfong was a third-generation soldier.

        His grandfather served as an armed guard in the Navy during World War II.

        His father, Jay Wildfong II, was an Army first sergeant who retired in December after 29 years of service.

        On Monday, Jay Wildfong II began working as a groundskeeper at a veterans' cemetery in Wisconsin, where his son will be buried.

        “I will get to see him every day,” he told the Charleston Daily Mail.

        Jason Wildfong lived in West Virginia for a few months in the mid-'90s with his second wife, who was from Hurricane, W.Va.

        “He was a good soldier, proud of what he did and really enjoyed it,” his father said, his voice breaking.

        Jason Wildfong's son from his first marriage, Ryan, turned 10 on the day after the accident in Kuwait. Also surviving is a second son, Benjamin, 6.

        “When he is playing with Benjamin, he is as much of a kid as Benjy is,” Jay Wildfong II said.

        His second wife, Janette, whom he divorced five months ago, also was stationed in Saudi Arabia. “They are still good friends,” his grandfather said.

        “She works in the medical field. They (the soldiers) were brought into her clinic after the accident,” Jason's father said.

        Janette Wildfong was on her way back from Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

        In 1996, Jason Wildfong was badly injured in a helicopter accident at Fort Campbell, Ky., his father said.

        “I thought he was going to die then. It was not his time. We got through that,” his father said.

        Jason Wildfong suffered serious injuries to his head, face, hip and feet, his grandfather said.

        After recovering from that accident, Jason Wildfong switched out of the infantry into explosive ordnance disposal.

        His grandfather said the family is now trying to focus on remembering “all the good things,” such as Spc. Wildfong's athletic skills in football and baseball back in high school.

        “He was just a good kid, that's all,” his grandfather said.

        Funeral services will be next week in Union Grove, his family said.

        Five American servicemen — four in the Army and one in the Air Force — and a New Zealand Army major were killed Monday by three 500-pound bombs dropped by a Navy F/A-18 Hornet near an observation post on the Al Udairi Test Range, the Pentagon said.

        The three gravity bombs struck near the post manned by air controllers responsible for directing the strikes, the release stated.

        Army officials identified four of those killed as: Staff Sgt. Troy J. Westberg, of Mankato, Minn., a medical sergeant with 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, N.C.; and explosive ordnance disposal specialists Staff Sgt. Richard N. Boudreau of Florida, Sgt. Phillip M. Freligh of Nevada, and Spc. Wildfong, all from the 707th Ordnance Company of the 3rd Ordnance Battalion.

        Staff Sgt. Westberg, 29, was recruited through an office in La Crosse, Wis.

        He joined the Army Reserve in March 1989 and entered active service in June 1993.

        He worked at Fort McCoy in western Wisconsin, processing troops returning from the Persian Gulf. While living in La Crosse, he married Michelle Thompson in 1992.

        Air Force officials identified the fifth American killed as Staff Sgt. Jason M. Faley, a tactical air controller with the 19th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Campbell, Ky.

        Seven others, five Americans and two Kuwaitis, were injured. The Kuwaitis and two Americans were treated and released. The three others were still being treated Wednesday.


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