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Roadside bomb in Iraq kills Spokane-born soldier

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Craig (The Spokesman-Review)

An Army sergeant from Spokane was killed along with four other 4th Infantry Division soldiers on Monday when a roadside bomb destroyed their vehicle in Mosul, Iraq.

Sgt. James E. Craig, 26, was married in Spokane in July and deployed in December for his third tour in Iraq, according to his father, Joel Craig, of Cheney.

“He was a wonderful man who loved the Lord Jesus Christ with his whole heart,” Craig said. “He served his country with dignity and honor.”

Sgt. Craig was born in Spokane. He moved to the Cusick area, in Pend Oreille County, where he attended high school before moving with his parents, Joel and Phyllis Craig, to the East Coast for a time. He graduated in 2000 from Academic Magnet High School near Hollywood, S.C.

While in school, Craig earned top scores, was an accomplished musician and a star football player and wrestler, his father said.

He remembered his son as a “thrill seeker.” who loved action, even as a 12-year-old.

“He once flew my dirt bike over the barn roof,” Joel Craig said. “I saw the motorcycle flying through the air with him on it.”

Upon graduating from high school, Craig joined the U.S. Army and was trained at Fort Benning, Ga., before being stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where he became a sniper. After Sept. 11, Craig requested to be transferred to a unit that would see action overseas – the 4th Infantry at Fort Carson, Colo., his father said.

Craig met his wife, Natalie, on the Internet while he was on active duty. It was an “amazing coincidence” because she was a member of his Spokane church, Joel Craig said.

“When we found out, we invited her to come to the airport with us to meet him (in person),” his father said. “It was like the movies – a wonderful romance.”

Craig was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, with the other soldiers killed in Monday’s attack – Staff Sgt. Gary W. Jeffries, 37, of Roscoe, Texas; Spc. Evan A. Marshall, 21, of Athens, Ga.; Pfc. Brandon A. Meyer, 20, of Orange, Calif.; and Pvt. Joshua A.R. Young, 21, of Riddle, Ore.

Craig was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Prior to his death, Craig was twice awarded the Army Commendation Medal among other honors, which included the Combat Infantryman Badge.

During his last deployment in Iraq, Craig was involved in a firefight during which his body armor stopped four rounds from enemy rifle fire, said his father, who recalled his son telling him, “I’m no hero, Dad. We all do the same thing every day.”

Craig is survived by his wife, parents and four sisters: Lola Hanson, Menesia Spade, Kelly Inman and Rachael Putman, all of the Spokane area.

His father said all veterans and church members are invited to attend a memorial service for Craig at 10 a.m. Feb. 9 at Fourth Memorial Church, 2000 N. Standard St.