Master Sergeant James Curtis “Jimmy” Coons, born April of 1968, in Winnie Texas, beloved son of Richard and Carol Coons; beloved husband of Robin; beloved father of Misaki and Chloe.
As a young boy growing up in Katy, James was so in love with military life that he would go to the Army surplus store on Saturdays to buy MREs (meals ready to eat), which he would then take to school and devour during lunch period. On one trip to the store, he bought a parachute and a harness, which he wore while jumping out of a backyard tree. At school, he wore his hair short, and he stood at attention during the Pledge of Allegiance. His father, who had served with the Air Force during Vietnam, told him that if he went to college, he could become an officer. But James said he wanted to be one of the grunts, and in 1986, when he was a high school senior, he signed a letter of intent to enlist in the Army so that he could report to basic training almost immediately after graduation.
He was shipped to Fort Hood, where he became a field artillery expert. After receiving his parachuting wings, an Army Good Conduct Medal, and an Army Achievement Medal for his work in special weapons, he was moved into the Signal Corps, where he learned to install communications systems and computer networks for troops in the midst of battle. He then served for a few years at an Army base in Okinawa, Japan, where he was promoted to sergeant in 1993 and received another Army Good Conduct Medal.
It was the spring of 2003. Coons, who was 35 years old, was about to receive a Bronze Star and a U.S. Army Meritorious Service Medal for his work installing combat communications systems during the invasion of Iraq. He was, by all accounts, a soldier’s soldier: six feet two, two hundred pounds, with a flattop, a perfectly chiseled jawline, and biceps the size of baseballs. “A real-life G. I. Joe,” one sergeant said about him. “Our Rock of Gibraltar,” added a lieutenant colonel. In just a couple of months, Coons was scheduled to return to Texas to attend an academy at Fort Bliss, in El Paso, so that he could become a sergeant major, the highest rank an enlisted soldier in the Army can achieve. But Coons never made it to Fort Bliss.
As a commander of the 385th Signal Company, Coons led soldiers and set up a communications infrastructure for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. He received a Bronze Star for his service. Several months later, he complained to doctors about hallucinations of a dead soldier’s face. He took an overdose of sleeping pills in Kuwait and was taken to Walter Reed for psychiatric treatment.
Master Sergeant Coons would soon find himself alone, stuck in a little room in a little building at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C. No one came by to check on him.
“He died because of this war,” said his mother, Carol Coons of Katy, Tex. She and her husband, Richard Coons, and their son’s widow, Robin Coons, have pushed for answers about his death and asked to have him counted among the war casualties.
Master Sergeant Coons lost his battle with PTS, July 4, 2003, while waiting to receive treatment at Walter Reed, in Washington, D.C. He was 35 years old.
The US Army lists Coons’ date of death as July 4, 2003, the day Coons’ was discovered at Walter Reed. But the family is fighting to have it changed to July 1, the day they believe he took his life.