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Army Pfc. Justin M. Whitmire

Died December 27, 2011 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

20, of Easley, S.C.; assigned to 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas; died Dec. 27 in Gardez, Afghanistan, of wounds caused by an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Army Sgt. Noah M. Korte and Army Spc. Kurt W. Kern.

‘A loving young man with a good heart’

By Katie Jones
The Greenville (S.C.) News

Justin Whitmire’s family is doing as well as can be expected after learning he was killed while serving his country, said Terry Rogers, pastor of Faith Renewed Outreach Center, the family’s church in Mauldin, S.C.

Whitmire, 20, an Army medic from Simpsonville, S.C., was killed Dec. 27 while serving in Afghanistan.

Whitmire had been in Afghanistan for about 19 days and in the military for a little over a year, Rogers said. The vehicle he was in hit an improvised explosive device, killing him and two other soldiers, Rogers said.

Whitmire graduated from Hillcrest High in 2010, Rogers said, and immediately joined the military.

“The reason he went there was just because he wanted to help people, and he felt like he was doing that,” he said.

Rogers said the family received a call at about 8 p.m. Dec. 27 that Whitmire had been killed. He said he had received a call from a chaplain to come to the family’s home.

Whitmire had expressed a desire to stay in the medical field after the military, Rogers said, but that from childhood, Whitmire knew he wanted to serve in the military.

“As a young boy, he knew that’s what he wanted to do,” Rogers said. “Just for him, the decision became which one it would be. He tossed around which branch of service he would be in and then decided with the Army.”

Rogers said he was Whitmire’s youth pastor for several years as well as his senior pastor.

Rogers said the last time he spoke with Whitmire was over Skype on Christmas Eve. Whitmire talked about how he felt he was making a difference, he said.

“He was excited about what he was doing there,” Rogers said.

Whitmire was the middle child of three, Rogers said. His 21-year-old brother, 16-year-old sister and his parents live in Simpsonville, he said.

Rogers said Whitmire was a big brother to a lot of younger guys at church, including Rogers’ 14-year-old son. During that last Skype session, Whitmire talked about fishing with Rogers’ son when he returned, Rogers said.

“He was one of those guys, just a big brother to everybody,” he said.

Whitmire was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, before going to Afghanistan. He was scheduled to return in February on leave, Rogers said.

One day before his death, Whitmire wrote on his Facebook page that he “had a great Christmas talking to the family and the love of my life on Skype. Can’t wait to be home with everyone again soon.”

Whitmire’s Facebook page has filled with those remembering him and thanking him for his service. His grandmother requested prayers for the Whitmire family on her page.

“Please remember our family in your prayer. Our grandson, Justin Whitmire, was killed in Afghanistan today,” she wrote.

“He was supposed to be in a safe location. But it appears that it is not safe anywhere over there. He was only 20 years old and had been over there for three weeks. Thank you for your prayers.”

Rogers said he and the family have received emails, texts and tweets about Whitmire, even from people who only met him once.

“If you met him, you’d remember him being a good guy with a good heart,” Rogers said. “He’d drop what he was doing to come help you. He’d drop anything to come help you.”

Whitmire had a heart of gold, loved to help people and had a smile that would light up a room, Rogers said.

“Justin’s a good boy, never any trouble,” he said. “Wanted to help people and that’s why he became a medic.”

Rogers said that’s how he will remember Whitmire — as “a loving young man with a good heart, who knew Jesus.”

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