Navy sailor remembered as ‘great kid,’ steadfast friend

Published: Saturday, September 16, 2017 @ 3:57 PM

Funeral services were Saturday in West Jefferson for Navy sailor Jacob Drake who was one of 10 sailors who died at sea last month in a ship crash aboard the USS John McCain. Video produced by Barrie Barber.

A Navy sailor who was one of 10 who died aboard a guided missile destroyer was remembered at funeral services Saturday as one who was a steadfast friend, a sailor who took on extra duties without complaint and who made others laugh easily.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob “Jake” Drake served as an electronics technician aboard the USS John S. McCain when a tanker and the warship collided in the South China Sea near Singapore last month, according to the Navy. He was 21 and was engaged to be married.

At a memorial service days from his birthday, Navy shipmates wearing white dress uniforms from the McCain and boot camp, and friends who spoke shared memories and told stories of their fallen friend and colleague to dozens of mourners who both laughed and cried at Rader-McDonald-Tidd Funeral Home.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Rafferty, 28, drove more than nine hours from Norfolk, Virginia, to speak at the service of his fellow shipmate with whom he attended boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill.

“Whenever you go through boot camp, you get really close,” said Rafferty, who attended the funeral with fellow Navy sailor Connor Gaul, who also drove from Norfolk. Rafferty said Drake was a “great kid” to whom everyone was drawn to make friends.

“He had a unique personality,” said Gaul, 22, now a sailor aboard the USS George Washington. “He could make anybody laugh in any situation.”

Nearly two dozen members of the Patriot Guard gave a final salute of the flag-draped casket inside the funeral home. Navy sailors acted as pall bearers for their shipmate’s return home.

Nan Hays, of Marysville, didn’t know Drake but drove in from Marysville to pay her respects with two fellow Blue Star mothers with sons or daughters in the military. She said they wanted to support the family.

Friends remembered him as “fun and smart” and creative, someone who loved the color pink and cats and going to a cat cafe in Japan, where the McCain was stationed.

“Drake was a loved guy,” friend Josh Ewing said.

RELATED: Navy recovers remains of 10 sailors killed in USS John S. McCain crash

On a rainy Tuesday, hundreds of people, many holding American flags, lined the streets of West Jefferson as Drake’s remains were returned to his home state. His body was flown to Columbus and a procession was escorted to West Jefferson for memorial services and full military honors Saturday.

Vicki Germann, a West Jefferson resident, was among those who stood to pay their respects at the sailor’s homecoming this week.

“He supported us,” German said then. “This is the least I can do — is stand out here, grab a flag and wave it.”

The 2013 graduate of Triad High School in North Lewisburg had joined the Navy in part to travel the world and was stationed at Yokosuka, Japan. He was assigned about the McCain for nearly two years.

Some 400 people turned out for a candlelight vigil held in Lewisburg while the sailor was missing, said Mayor Cheryl Hollingsworth.

RELATED: Champaign County missing sailor: three things to know about Jacob Drake

“He was just a wonderful young man, which is indicative of the community,” she said Saturday. “… It’s just a very patriotic community. We’re just so sorry that Jacob died. It was just a tragic, tragic death.”

According to the Navy, the McCain and an oil tanker collided Aug. 21 near Singapore. The crash ripped open a hole on the left side of the warship’s rear hull just above the waterline and flooded crew berths, machinery and communication rooms. Five other sailors were injured.

RELATED: Champaign County town rallies to support missing sailor

The collision was the fourth to strike the U.S. Pacific fleet within a year and led the Navy to order a temporary pause in operations. In June, seven sailors were killed aboard the USS Fitzgerald when a collision with a container ship in the Sea of Japan caused significant damage and flooded sleeping quarters, according to reports. The Navy relieved of command the top three senior leaders aboard the ship after the deadly crash.

After the accident involving the McCain, a 7th fleet admiral was relieved of his duties. The latest crash led congressional leaders to schedule a hearing into finding the cause of the incidents.

Staff writers Katherine Collins and Parker Perry and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Miami Valley veterans chosen for Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 5:30 AM

            Richard V. Reynolds CONTRIBUTED
Richard V. Reynolds CONTRIBUTED

Three Miami Valley veterans are among 20 statewide chosen as the newest inductees into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.

The two Air Force veterans and a former Marine include:

* Blanche Aviles Casey, 73, of Beavercreek, a veteran of both the Vietnam War and Persian Gulf War era who became a federal servant after serving 30 years in the Air Force.

Casey is a member of the Greene County Veterans Service Commission, and serves on the Greene County transit board, according to the state. She’s a member of veterans’ service organizations and won recognition awards for her extensive involvement in public service.

RELATED: Two local WWII veterans mark 100th birthdays

* William E. DeFries, 57, of Clayton, a Marine Corps veteran who is a small business owner, philanthropist, and mentor, among other roles.

DeFries acts as a mentor at the Ohio Veterans Treatment Court in Montgomery County for veterans suffering substance abuse or mental illness, according to the state. Among a wide range of community public service, he has offered jobs to the unemployed at his restaurants and organized fund raisers through community service organizations for young adults involved in athletics, art and academia, the state said.

RELATED: WWII 75 years later: 101-year old Dayton man relives Doolittle Raid

* Richard V. Reynolds, 68, of Beavercreek, a retired three-star Air Force general, was a past chairman, president and CEO of the Air Force Museum Foundation Inc. He led a nearly $41 million fund raising campaign to add a fourth hangar at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force that opened last year and is part of the fund raising effort to build a $6.5 million Fisher House at the Dayton VA Medical Center campus.

Among other post military work, Reynolds co-founded Air Camp Inc., for Dayton elementary and middle school students in the region.

The Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame will induct its newest members Nov. 9 in Dublin, Ohio.

Local group leading ‘Convoy of Hope’ for relief aid to Puerto Rico

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 7:08 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 8:28 PM

            Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employees collected hurricane relief aid for Puerto Rico. CONTRIBUTED
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employees collected hurricane relief aid for Puerto Rico. CONTRIBUTED

Members of PACO, who include Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employees, and several businesses have gathered more than 100 pallets of hurricane relief aid items to ship to Puerto Rico, still reeling from Hurricane Maria, an organizer says.

“The Dayton community came through big time,” said Tony Ortiz, an organizer for the Puerto Rican, American Caribbean Organization (PACO) who coordinated with area businesses and base employees to roll out a “Convoy of Hope” — five semi-tractor trailers filled with aid that left Wednesday.

RELATED: Ohio National Guard deploys more troops to hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico

“This is a great feeling,” said Ortiz, an Ohio Attorney General employee who is the diversity liaison to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London, Ohio.

Food, water, and cleaning supplies were among items collected, he said. “You name it, it was there,” Ortiz said. “People came out in droves to help.”

The truck will head to a Convoy of Hope warehouse in Missouri and be shipped from there to Puerto Rico, he said.

“We’re all affected by it so we’re trying to do all we can,” he said.

Ortiz, who has family who live in Puerto Rico, said his relatives were “surviving” after Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. territory, the second since Hurricane Irma sideswiped the island weeks before the latest powerful storm caused widespread damage.

RELATED: Wright Patt hurricane relief flights expected to fly for weeks

His family remained without power and lacked food and water, he said.

“Everything’s wiped out,” he said. “All of them lost their business. They’re just stuck up in the mountains living off the mountain.”

The Convoy of Hope is collecting aid though out Ohio from Cincinnati to Cleveland, he said. People in those cities are continuing to work with the convoy project, but their participation has not yet been confirmed.

The need remains great: Less than 20 percent of island residents have had their power restored since the storm and the death toll has climbed to nearly 50.

As many as one million Puerto Ricans do not have clean water to drink and many hospitals continue to operate on generator power as the tropical heat soars.

— WHIO-TV’s Kate Bartley contributed to this report.

Middletown soldier killed in Fort Jackson military accident to be laid to rest

Published: Saturday, October 07, 2017 @ 7:26 PM

Private Timothy Ashcraft was a 2017 graduate of Amelia High School in Clermont County.

UPDATE @ 11 a.m. (Oct. 16):

A Middletown U.S. Army soldier killed in a military accident early this month at Fort Jackson in South Carolina will be laid to rest Monday.

Funeral services for Pvt. Timothy Ashcraft will be held at 2 p.m. in Middletown at Wilson-Schramm-Spaulding Funeral Home, 3805 Roosevelt Blvd.

A visitation will be held prior to the funeral from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

According to his obituary, Ashcraft attended Mayfield Elementary and Middletown Middle School in Middletown. He then went to West Clermont school district to finish his education. Timothy also attended Live Oaks, where he was studying to be a welder. 

Interment will be held at Woodside Cemetery.


A U.S. Army soldier from Southwest Ohio was killed Friday after he was struck by a military vehicle while in formation.

Pvt. Timothy Ashcraft, was one of two soldiers who died in the incident that injured six others at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, according to the military. The other killed was identified as Pvt. Ethan Shrader of Prospect, Tenn.

Ashcraft was a 2017 graduate of Amelia High School in Clermont County, our news partner WCPO-TV in Cincinnati reported.

“We are thankful for his dedication and service to our country,” according to a statement released by the West Clermont Local School District. “His impact ... will not soon be forgotten.”

U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson Commander Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson said the Army will thoroughly investigate what caused the military vehicle to crash into the pedestrians.

“We are continuing to support everyone affected by this tragic event,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the Army will thoroughly investigate the cause of the fatal crash.

The six injured were privates Emmett Foreman of Daleville, Alabama; Hanna new of Cartersville, Georgia; Benjamin Key of Cookville, Tenn.; Alan Kryszak of Clarksville, Tenn.; Cardre Jackson Jr. of Laurel, Maryland; and James Foster of Macon, Ga.

DoD: Springboro soldier killed in Niger in attack by Islamic extremists

Published: Saturday, October 07, 2017 @ 1:35 AM
Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 5:39 PM

More details revealed about Niger attack where local solider was killed

UPDATE @ 5:45 p.m. (Oct. 11): Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson of Springboro and the other U.S. soldiers killed in Niger were victims of an attack by Islamic extremists, the Department of Defense tells the Associated Press.


Family and friends of 39-year-old Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson remember the Springboro soldier after he was killed in a terrorist ambush in Niger. 

Staff Sgt. Johnson was killed during a joint operation between U.S. and Nigerian forces near the border of Mali. The Associated Press reported that he and three others were killed by enemy fire after an ambush. Around 40 and 50 extremists ambushed in vehicles and motorcycles, attacking the patrol with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. 

RELATED: Remembering 43 area servicemen who died on active duty since 2002

Jeff and Teena Baldridge are neighbors of where Staff Sgt. Johnson’s family used to live, and saw soldiers outside, looking for Johnson’s mother. 

"We knew when they said that -- we knew who it was and we knew where he was," Teena Baldridge said. 

"Jeremiah was doing what he really wanted to do, he really wanted to be an NCO (non-commissioned officer) in the United States Army," Jeff Baldridge said. Baldridge is also a retired Air Force veteran. 

CRIME: Clark County animal shelter burglarized, supplies stolen

Political leaders also shared their condolences, including U.S. Rep. Mike Turner and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Gov. John Kasich tweeted “My heart goes out to Jeremiah’s family. Rest in peace, Staff Sergeant.”

Staff Sgt. Johnson is survived by  a wife and two children. His funeral service will be held sometime within the next week at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.