Marine Cpl. Evan T. James

Marine Cpl. Evan T. James

Died March 24, 2003 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

20, of La Harpe, Ill.; assigned to Engineering Company C, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Force Service Support Group, based in Peoria, Ill.; drowned in the Saddam Canal in southern Iraq.
James was fording the canal with another group of Marines at 10:30 p.m. local time March 24 to set up a fire support position for a water purification unit on the other side of the waterway. It is unclear how he fell into the water.

Ten weeks before his death, Evan James was a 20-year-old sophomore at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. His death was a shock to his friends at home, in part because James was such a strong swimmer and had been training for a triathlon before his reserve unit was called to active duty in January. “We’re all having trouble understanding how he could drown,” said Sue Schafer, owner of the health club where James worked while going to college. “It just seems unreal.” James and three other Marines were securing a “water point” near the Euphrates River so engineers could connect a pump and filtration system to provide drinking water to U.S. forces, said Gunnery Sgt. James Howard of the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Peoria, Ill. “He was a typical small town boy: hard-nosed and hard working,” said Tim Lafferty, football coach at La Harpe High School. James played linebacker for four years and graduated in 2000. “He was more tough than talented,” Lafferty said. “He got by more on grit than anything else.” James enlisted in the reserves after high school graduation to help pay for college. He enrolled at Southern Illinois in the fall of 2001. He was majoring in kinesiology, the study of muscles and body movement, and hoped to be a fitness trainer, school officials said. When he left for overseas, the staff of the health club threw him a farewell party. He promised to be home by summer. His death has stunned co-workers. Said Schafer, the club owner: “I don’t know where the ‘awe’ is, but this is where the ‘shock’ is.”

USA Today, Associated Press

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