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Family grieves fallen soldier

NWS Sarah Vaughan KA 6-15-07
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EDWARDS ” Sarah Vaughan no longer complains about her son’s jeep tires that lie fallow in the grass outside her home.

She gestures toward the knobby tires and rusted roll-cage that are from a jeep her son worked on before he was killed in Iraq June 7, 2006.

“Now I love it,” Sarah said.



Sarah’s son, Lt. John Shaw Vaughan, 23, was killed in Mosul, Iraq, when a sniper shot him. More than a year later, John’s mother, sister and friend are struggling to cope.

Sarah felt numb in the months following John’s death, but the last two have been the most difficult, she said.



“Even at Christmas, that wasn’t quite so bad because it was just kind of like the feeling that, well, maybe he’s just not here this year,” Sarah said. “Now, I know he’s never coming back.”

John was born at the Vail Valley Medical Center and graduated from Battle Mountain High School in 2001. He enjoyed restoring old jeeps and Sarah keeps one he named “Hercules” parked in her garage.

John graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a degree in aviation business management and was commissioned as a U.S. Army lieutenant in 2005.



After officer training at Fort Benning, Ga., Vaughan was stationed in Fort Wainwright, Alaska. In 2006, he began a tour in Iraq that would last about five weeks.

Juanita Amaya, the family’s maid, knew John since he was a baby. When he was a little boy, John once asked Amaya when she would stop cleaning so they could fish together.

“John said, ‘Mama ” she’s not going to say anything to you,'” Amaya said.

“I don’t have that person anymore,” said Amaya as tears welled up in her eyes.

After John was killed, Becca Vaughan ” John’s younger sister ” transferred from Florida State University to the University of Denver so that she and her mom could comfort one another.

Becca would never heal and she thinks about times John won’t be there, from giving her away at her wedding to fixing things in her new home, she said.

When she thinks of John, she gets sad but also feels lucky to have known him, she said.

“He was definitely someone who was well-respected in his job,” she said. “I would much rather him die doing what he loved than in a car accident or something.”

John always wanted to be in the military, Sarah said.

Thursday morning, Sarah was reading stickers on John’s tool box in a garage in which he would spend hours working on his jeep, Hercules.

Along with several American flags, one said, “Happiness is a belt-fed weapon,” and another said, “Shut up hippy.”

“He was so straight,” Sarah said.

As a boy, John wore camouflage, painted his face and played “war games” in family’s backyard, Sarah said.

“I had to wash it all the time because that’s all he wanted to wear,” she said.

As John grew up, he was protective of Sarah and his sister, Becca, and he fixed things around the house, Sarah said.

Sarah never thought of the military as a long-term career for John ” it was something she thought he would do temporarily, she said. She thought he would have invented something, she said.

Still, she’s proud that John helped rebuild Iraqi schools and spent time playing with and comforting Iraqi children, she said. Soldiers from his platoon told Sarah he treated them as equals, she said.

“I know that he did not die in vain,” she said.

“This was a cause that he believed in,” Sarah added. “He wouldn’t have been there had he not. He didn’t go because he had to.”

Sarah used to try to stay busy with her work as an interior designer to “hide,” she said.

Now, “It’s just incredibly sad for me because I feel as though it’s not a dream anymore,” Sarah said.

Sarah and John used to ride horses together and nowadays she thinks of him when she rides her horse.

“I feel like as I reflect on life, I think about how much John really gave,” Sarah said. “He was truly a patriot ” he gave his life.”

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.


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