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'America lost a true hero this week'


Kitzhaber orders public flags at half staff on Monday, when funeral is scheduled

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Flags fly at the Cedar Hills residence, where John Alexander Pelham grew up in Beaverton.When U.S. Army officers showed up at the Pelham family residence near Cedar Hills around 5 p.m. on Feb. 12, all the information Corey Lederer needed came from the chaplain insignia he saw on one man’s collar.

“When two Army officers show up, you know something is up,” he said. “And when one is a chaplain, you know you’re not

going to hear very good news. I saw the chaplain insignia. We all knew what was coming next.”

That was the devastating news that U.S. Army Spc. John Alexander Pelham, the brother of Lederer’s wife, Lyndsey, was killed in action in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 12.by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - John A. Pelham of Beaverton, shown here with Lyndsey Pelham Lederer, was killed Wednesday, Feb. 12, in Afghanistan. He was a 2010 graduate of Sunset High School.

Pelham, 22, a 2010 Sunset High School graduate, and Sgt. First Class Roberto Skelt, 41, of York, Fla., both soldiers engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom, were struck and killed by enemy small arms gunfire. It was Pelham’s second tour of duty with the 2nd Batallion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“On Tuesday, I talked to my son,” John’s father, Wendall Pelham of Beaverton, told KOIN 6 News. “On Wednesday, he’s dead. And sometime in the next seven to 10 days I’ll bury him.”

A funeral service for John Pelham will be held on Monday, Feb. 24, at 10 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4195 S.W. 99th Ave., in Beaverton. The public is invited to attend.

On Friday, Gov. John Kitzhaber ordered all flags at public institutions to be flown at half-staff on Monday from sunrise to sunset to honor Pelham.

“This is a tragic loss for Oregon, and we are indebted to (him) for proudly serving our state and our nation,” Kitzhaber said. “My thoughts are with his family and his unit during this difficult time. I ask all Oregonians to pause on Monday to remember Specialist Pelham and honor both his sacrifice and his legacy of service.”

Lederer, who spoke with the Valley Times on Feb. 14, said he hadn’t talked with Pelham since around Christmastime, but Lyndsey communicated with her younger brother through Facetime, a smartphone app that provides sound and video, on Sunday, Feb. 8.

Lederer described his brother-in-law as “all American, one of the most genuinely nice people” one could meet.

“He’s the type of person you’d love for your daughter to marry,” he said. “He had a deep sense of family and was committed to

doing what’s right. If you needed anything, he was the first one to volunteer to help.”

Named after his grandfather John Pelham, who served as an Army colonel, the younger Pelham grew up in Tigard and Beaverton, where he attended Cedar Park Middle School. He temporarily left Sunset High to enroll in the Bend-based Oregon National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program where, in Lederer’s words, Pelham became a “star cadet.”

“He earned almost every award they can give,” Lederer said. “He realized he could do this Army stuff really well.”

Pelham returned to Sunset, where he continued playing baseball as a pitcher, as well as quarterback for the Apollos’ football squad before graduating in 2010. A baseball scholarship took him to the College of the Redwoods in Eureka, Calif., but in 2011 Pelham decided to enlist.

“As a father you are proud. I’m grateful my son had the integrity and desire to serve his country,” Wendall Pelham told KOIN.

“My son was a warrior, and he knew part of his calling in life was to defend the freedoms of our country.”

Starting off in Special Forces, Pelham served for several months in 2012 and returned for a second tour of duty the following year. Despite the complex, secretive nature of his assignment, Pelham did his best to stay in touch with family and friends and visit home for the holidays.

“He was never able to disclose where he was,” Lederer said. “We were just never able to know exactly where he was stationed in Afghanistan.”

His family had full confidence in Pelham’s abilities and judgment, but that didn’t always make the situation easier back home in Beaverton.

“You always worry,” Lederer said. “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t worry. John was well trained, and served with amazingly talented men in the Army. We felt like, because the people he was with, he was safe.

“We knew he could get himself out of dangerous situations,” he added. “This is just one of those situations that was just a bit too difficult to get out of.”

Wendall was preparing Friday to fly to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where his son’s body was flown.

“He was a wonderful human being with a special heart,” Wendall said. “To lose one of your own children, I never thought it would be mine.”

A graveside service at Willamette National Cemetery in Southeast Portland will follow the Monday morning funeral in Beaverton. Pelham will be buried with full military honors.

“He was an amazing guy,” Lederer said. “America lost a true hero this week.”by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - U.S. Army soldiers carry the casket containing the body of Spc. John Alexander Pelham from a military plane at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Pelham was killed in action in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 12.