RPHS graduate Robert "Bobby" Jones, 22, dies in Iraq
The Iraq war struck deep in the heart of a Milwaukie family this past week, claiming its eldest son. Army Specialist Robert 'Bobby' Jones was killed by an improvised explosive device while riding in a humvee through the restive city of Ar Ramadi on June 17.
A 2002 graduate of Rex Putnam High School, Jones served as a member of 'C' Company, 40th Engineer Battalion, based in Baumholder, Germany. He was 22 years old. Killed alongside Jones was Sergeant Reyes Ramirez, 23, of Willis, Texas.
The news came as a devastating blow to Jones' close-knit family. His aunt, Gloria Rehart, described how a pair of officers came to the door while his parents were away.
'It turned out to be a blessing, because the whole family was here for them, by the time they got home,' said Rehart.
Returning from helping a friend move, Jones' mother, Brenda Dowell, was driving. She let his father out at the curb to check the mail before turning up the driveway.
'When she saw those two military men sitting in their car, she got out and she started screaming, 'No! No!' and she fell down,' Rehart said. 'They didn't even have a chance to get out of the car.
'When Jerry, her husband, heard her screaming, he knew - he just knew.'
Rehart rushed to Dowell's side and helped her back to her feet. Friends and relatives rallied around the stricken family, who stayed in seclusion through the end of the week. According to Rehart, Brenda Dowell sat silent on the family's sofa, clutching a photograph of her son against her chest.
With Jones' immediate family overcome by grief, it fell to Rehart and long-time family friend Kathy Walker to tell his story. They described a young man with an infectious smile who shared strong bonds with his family.
'He had that smile, always, even through the hard times,' said Rehart. 'He was a perfect child, a child anyone would want to have. He was a great kid - he pulled people up when they were down.
'His favorite thing to do was to be at home, hunting and fishing with his father and brother.'
Jones joined the Army in 2003, and having completed his initial three-year term of service, he re-enlisted for two more years shortly before he was killed.
'He was scared, but he wanted to stand up for his country along with the other soldiers,' Rehart said. 'He wanted to fight for his country - he was very proud.'
The young soldier had already completed one tour of duty in Iraq, and had come home for a visit in April.
'He bought his mom a computer when he was home, so that she could keep in touch with him,' explained Rehart. 'The last time they saw him was April 18.'
His family anticipated that his unit would be deployed to Kuwait, away from the fighting.
'We weren't expecting him to go back to Iraq, but another unit had to be pulled out for emergency relief, so they sent him in,' said Rehart. 'It was only supposed to be a two or three week thing, but he never made it out.'
Walker, herself the mother of a soldier stationed in Tal-Afar, Iraq, said: 'We never thought it would be us, but let's not let any of these young men be forgotten - they are beautiful young men.'
Her cheeks wet with tears, Rehart added, 'It's time for our troops to come home - I really do believe that. Our soldiers - lots of them have died over there.'