1st Lt. James R. Zimmerman
Local Marine killed in Afghanistan
By Elna Seabrooks
HOULTON — It is a bitter irony of war that flags will fly at half-staff tomorrow, Veterans Day, for the funeral of Marine 1st Lt. James R. Zimmerman who was killed in action by small arms fire during combat operations in Afghanistan on Nov. 2.
A motorcade comprised of various local, state and federal law enforcement departments and community residents along the route from Island Falls escorted the hearse bearing the beloved young Marine to Houlton late Tuesday afternoon.
Zimmerman grew up in Smyrna and Town Manager Candy Nevers called his death a “tragic loss.” She said she knew the family even before the 25-year-old was born and “never saw him when he didn’t have a big smile on his face. He was honest, genuine and sincere.”
Nevers said the motorcade was designed to allow area residents to join and follow it as it worked its way through the towns. Along the route she said adults and school children were able to stand and hold candles and flashlights as the daylight slipped into darkness. She expected veterans to be among the adults.
The world stopped
On Sunday, churches remembered Zimmerman and his family with prayers. Local residents had nothing but fond memories and praise for their former friend, colleague and neighbor.
Cathleen Carver, wife of the slain soldier’s pastor at County Road Baptist Church, said “he was the kind of kid who was known for being able to play with a 4-year-old as well an 84-year-old. It was not uncommon for me to see him sitting and talking with a senior citizen in our church and getting down on the floor and playing with my children when they were little.”
She added that when Zimmerman’s father called to tell her husband about the death, “the world stopped spinning for a minute.”
John Bishop is head of school at Greater Houlton Christian Academy where the future Marine graduated in 2003. His parents, sister and brother-in-law still teach there. Bishop described the loss as a “terrible blow.” He said his first official task of the day was to meet with the staff and let them know what had happened before school started.
War hit home with death
Bishop added that he knew from Tom Zimmerman that his son wanted to join the military and serve his country. “As a teenager that was all he thought about,” Bishop stated. “The Afghanistan war is not something remote and disconnected from us. This brought it home to us.” Bishop said initially everyone at the school was too stunned to determine how to memorialize their alumnus’ service to America. However, he said, the form of a commemoration will be determined at a future date.
Pastor Carver said the family is doing well considering the circumstances and Marine officials were encouraged by the response of Zimmerman’s parents, Tom and Jane, who expressed a strong faith in God. Carver said Tom is an elder at the church. “He was very composed. He has a good grasp of the spiritual nature of things. But, certainly we cried together. This is a very trying time.” Carver said the family was very aware of the risks. He added that “the entire church family is dealing with this.”
Zimmerman was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, N.C. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said Zimmerman “represented our country in the finest spirit and tradition of Marines.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) released a statement saying: “He served our nation courageously, and I join the people of Maine in being forever grateful for his brave service and selfless sacrifice to our country.”
Just one year ago, Zimmerman’s proud and loving father came into the Pioneer Times with a photo of his son for inclusion in the Veterans Day section of the paper. This year his son’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. in Houlton High School on Veterans Day.
By order of Gov. John E. Baldacci, flags will be flown at half-staff. He described Zimmerman as “a hero who died serving his country. His tragic death is a reminder of the great sacrifices required of our men and women in uniform and their families.”
Editor’s Note: See Page 4 for complete obituary.
1st Lt. James R. Zimmerman