25, of Aroostook, Maine; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Nov. 2, 2010 at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, of wounds received while conducting combat operations.
To honor 1stLt James R. Zimmerman, his parents, Mr. Tom Zimmerman and Mrs. Jane Zimmerman retrieved this stone from an outdoor fire pit near the lake on their property in Smyrna, Maine.
Watch this video to learn why this stone is significant and what it says about 1stLt James R. Zimmerman.
LT James Zimmerman
“James Loved The Men He Commanded”
Written by Jane Zimmerman– Gold Star Mother
1st Lt. James R. Zimmerman, born May 18, 1985, was Killed In Action on November 2, 2010 by small arms fire while leading his men when engaging the enemy. He was the commander of 3rd Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. He deployed June 13, 2010 to Operation Enduring Freedom in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
James was our third child. His older brother Christian and sister Meghan loved him sooo much. James brought laughter and fun to all of us! Growing up, he was dressed up as someone else more often than he was himself: Patch the Pirate, a old-time Preacher, a cowboy, Davy Crockett, an Indian, and a bike accident victim. Once while we were out skiing, he dressed like a white-camouflaged Marine and often he dressed as a regular camouflaged Marine.
When he disobeyed he would be sent to his bed and he sadly would say, “OK Mom.” He would stay in his room until I remembered to tell him he could get off his bed. He easily said, “I’m sorry.” He grew up on our small farm in Northern Maine, playing outside daily. He enjoyed the farm animals: Rosie his cow, Chico his horse and his black lab-shepherd mix Bonita. The dog was always by his side, in his bed, on his lap in the recliner, traipsing beside him in the woods or where ever James journeyed. His father and I gave the two-week-old Rosie-cow to James as a gift for his sixteenth birthday. He wanted to learn to rope a calf; he never did – but instead walked her on a dog leash. At times James could be found curled up beside Rosie when she laid down in the hay to nap!
At church James looked out after the little kids. Well… he looked out for kids at restaurants and Wal-Mart too. Guess he was always looking out for others. After James’ death we received a sympathy card from a young man. His note described how other kids on his team had been picking on him while playing a church game. His brother told James about the teasing. James took the boy on his team and the boy wasn’t picked on anymore. Another time we were climbing Mt Katahdin with some church kids. Selena was wearing shoes that belonged to her mother. They were too small and her feet blistered. James carried the girl and her pack for the last part of the descent. He always seemed to carry someone else’s pack. I was told he also carried other soldiers’ packs during trainings and on Marine humps.
For twenty years our family made monthly visits to the local nursing home and had a church services with the residents. We sang and played music as a family. James was so comfortable going there, singing for the elderly and visiting with them: shaking hands, hugging the women and talking military to the veterans. He would often sing with me, his mother, as I played the guitar and his sister played the piano.
He loved being a counselor at Camp Good News and was always watching out for his boys. Wherever James went, his cabin boys followed, sitting all around him, clamoring for his attention. He was their lifeguard and also helped teach them archery. He played with the kids during the big games that were held in the evening. He sat with them for meals. Whether it was at a church, a nursing home or a camp, James loved to be involved with people.
The first Marine recruiter call came when James was ten years old. He had sent “the card” in on his own. The nice Marine told him to keep doing well in school and he would talk again with him later! The second call came at age fourteen. When James was seventeen-and-a-half, we drove him to the MEPS center in Southern Maine to give his life to the US Marine Corps. I have a picture of James raising his hand to be sworn in as a Marine. He and I didn’t know what that really meant.
We spent three hours waiting. In the next room was a TV set the size of the wall flashed live footage of the first day of “Shock and Awe” in Iraq – a new military plan to protect and keep us safe in America. The room was filled with service men of all ages. Each time a bomb lit the TV screen, the men exploded with cheers. I asked the Marine in charge if James would be going to Iraq and he said, ”Oh Yes.”
Not being military, I just didn’t know what to think. James had always wanted to be a Marine – felt it was his calling. We had always supported him as we felt it was his calling also. We fully trusted God to take care of James, as we did for Him to watch and care for our other two children at home. We were proud to be Americans. After all, our country helped to look after struggling countries far away. James often wanted me to sit and watch “war movies” with him. I did because I loved him but I never liked it. We would chatter through the battle scenes, and I would always direct James to be the hero that lives and comes home! But, we didn’t talk much about “‘what if’s”. Not sure why, maybe I wish we had…
James joined the US Marine Reserves in Maine for a year and then he was offered a scholarship to NROTC at the University of Maine, in Orono. He wanted to be an infantryman and didn’t want to leave the men in his unit so he refused the offer. Five of his superiors got on the phone and told him he needed to do this. He needed to be a Marine officer. The next four years of study were very hard consisting of general courses that James didn’t have much interest in, sprinkled with physical education, military history, studying the different wars, and leadership. James excelled in anything that came close to the Marines. I believe he excelled in his leadership studies because he loved the men he was in charge of.
While in the Marine Reserves, James volunteered at the Topsham Fair for security details. A woman who worked the fair wrote that for the seven days she knew James, she felt safe when she saw him report for duty.
Lynell Winters, a veterinarian student at UM Orono, met our young Marine while he was in training to be an officer. She was one year ahead of him. They were mostly apart – she moved to North Carolina for Veterinarian studies while he finished NROTC. Then he was Commissioned II Lieutenant and sent to Quantico, Virginia for Officer Training. They traveled back and forth to see each other and married just one year before James deployed. Lynell moved to Rhode Island for a Veterinarian Internship.
The year before James’ deployment—not to Iraq—for the war had moved on to Afghanistan, he was in charge of a Marine platoon. They trained together preparing to fight in Afghanistan. One weekend James was off duty and had traveled the one-and-a-half hours to see Lynell. He was notified that one of his men was in trouble for the third time. James didn’t need to return to base, but he did in order to be with his young Marine. He told us on the phone that so many of his men came from troubled families. He said how much he appreciated his own home and family. When this Marine went before the board, the members wanted to discharge him from the Marines. James stepped forward with him. He told the board that his man was a good Marine and wanted him to deploy to Afghanistan with his unit; Joshua spoke at James’s memorial service at their Patrol Base in Afghanistan. James believed in people and they came to believe in him. Joshua contacted his mother asking her to attend James’s funeral and represent James’s men still fighting in Afghanistan. At the funeral she waited in line for hours to hug us and tell Joshua’s story.
While only deployed for five months, James lost five men from his platoon. His Sergeant Derek Shanfield deployed to Afghanistan before the rest of the unit to make preparations. The Sergeant was killed by an IED before the rest of his unit was deployed. On two different days, four of James’ men were killed in action. He called home each time to tell us. It was very difficult. His Dad said, “You know James…you can cry for them.”
He replied, “Dad! I ‘m doing the Marine thing here…I just love my men…”
In a phone call James told us of a safe school that his unit set up and patrolled for children who had not been schooled for nearly six years. He told us it was “his” school. James spoke of wanting to put together a safe area for a bazaar so the Afghani people would have a secure place to shop. As a platoon leader Daniel met with the local Afghanistan tribal leaders; I was told they liked and trusted him. James wanted to take care people who could not defend themselves.
In Arlington, after James’s burial, we all gathered at a local restaurant set up by one of James’s commanders. His men surrounded us to share stories about James. At a table I had a Marine seated on each side of me holding my hand; each took turns telling us stories about James and his men. His platoon was known for using the most ammunition and going on the most patrols. As platoon leader, James had to lead many patrols and chose to join patrols even when he didn’t have to. He would step aside and let his Sergeant take charge but felt the need be with them. On the day he died they had already patrolled an area. Having previously encountered two firefights, they were heading back to base when they heard enemy fire. They turned back to fight. James and Sullivan were sitting in a ditch. Both had full protective gear on. A spray of bullets came and both men were hit. A bullet hit Sullivan on his vest and another hit James just barely beside his vest. The Lord chose to take his child James home that day.
Four years later at “The Run For The Fallen” in Southern Maine, the Marine Color Guard Jay Foley, who had been with James’s Platoon and under his command in Afghanistan, told us that unlike most officers James would sit and eat with his men. He would spend off time with his Marines rather than with the other officers.
Foley said, “’Z’ was the greatest Marine I ever knew.”
James loved the men he commanded.