Battle Mountain grad killed in Iraq
June 8, 2006
EDWARDS ” Lt. John Shaw Vaughan, a 2001 Battle Mountain High School graduate, was killed in combat in Mosul, Iraq, after his platoon was attacked Wednesday. He was 23.
“He will be extremely missed,” said Becca Vaughan, his sister. “He was the best brother that I could ever ask for.”
Vaughan, who was a lieutenant and platoon leader, served in the 172nd Infantry brigade in the Army. He had just accepted a four-year post in Fairbanks, Alaska, and was then deployed to Iraq in May for a six-month tour of duty.
Vaughan’s mother, Sarah, who lives near Edwards, and the rest of his family learned of his death around 12 a.m., Thursday.
“The military chaplain and the notification officer were waiting in her driveway when she drove home from Denver last night (Wednesday) at 11,” said Dick Shaw, Sarah’s brother.
Vaughan was an avid fly-fisherman, skier, and four-wheeler who was born at the Vail Valley Medical Center and lived in the valley his whole life. He loved to build his own jeeps, nicknaming one of them “Hercules.”
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“He was just always an outdoorsman and loved the military,” said his mother. “From the time he was a boy, it was just his dream.”
In high school, John was on the cross-country Nordic ski team. The family shared John’s love for skiing, and would go to the slopes together on Christmas Day, Becca said.
“Those were the last family pictures we had together ” on Christmas Day,” she said.
After graduating from high school, John headed south to attend college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he participated in the ROTC program.
John, who was ROTC commander, was one of three ROTC members to go through jump training at Fort Benning, Ga., where he earned his wings. There, he learned how to jump out of the back of an airplane.
John graduated from college and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2005.
Becca said she remembers how John took her out bowling a couple years back.
“He was back in the mountains, just celebrating,” she said. “He turned 21 and I turned 16 in the same year, and he found that extremely exhilarating because I could drive and he could go out to drink.”
They decided to try human bowling ” he slid himself down the lanes to knock over the pins. The two ended up getting kicked out.
When John was 16, he drove his Jeep Wrangler into a ditch, and came back home to ask his sister for a hand.
“My first time driving a car was pulling him out of a ditch when I was in the fourth grade,” she said.
Becca entered Florida State University this past year while her brother was going through basic officer training at Fort Benning. There, he earned an award for excellence in leadership.
“We spent pretty much every weekend together hanging out,” she said.
He was also close to his maternal grandmother, Rebecca Shaw, who lives near Fort Benning.
“I live on a farm,” Rebecca Shaw said. “I think he just considered it his when he was there.
“I talked to him just Saturday, he seemed like everything was going just fine, and it made my day,” she said.
Sarah said he would visit his grandmother at least once a month and care for her, helping her cross streets.
“He was a real Southern gentleman, although he grew up in Colorado,” she said.
He was also very protective of his sister, acting as her guardian, Sarah said.
“He always had a hand on her shoulder when she was little,” she said. “The day she was born, he said it was the most special day in his life.”
John was good at making his sister laugh.
“You had to be smart to get his jokes,” Becca said. “He was just generally a good guy, you know. One of those ones that shouldn’t have left.”
Along with his wit, John was very personable and befriended many people, Becca said.
“Off of MySpace and Facebook, I have quotes and quotes from his friends like, ‘You’re amazing,’ and, ‘I’ve been touched by your life,'” she said.
Many of the comments remarked that her brother was very passionate about being a soldier, she said.
“He was so excited about being a soldier and representing his country,” Becca said.
John was always wearing camouflage as a kid, so that his mother would have to wash the same shirt over and over again.
“This is what he wanted to do ever since he was 4 years old,” said Sarah, who moved to the valley 31 years ago.
Wes Greenwald, a family friend who lives in Quincy, said John was a rare individual. When John went to Iraq, he told Greenwald, “People don’t understand why we’re here, but I figured it out after I got here.”
Nic Corbett can be reached at email@example.com