Area mourns loss of another young Marine killed in Iraq

By Lynn R. Parks

Seaford has lost another young man to the war in Iraq. Just one week after Cory Palmer died from injuries he received May 1, Lance Cpl. Richard "Rick" James, 20, was killed. He was the son of Kenny "Jake" and Carol James of Seaford. This was his second tour in Iraq. Jake James said that his son, a lance corporal, was killed Saturday in Ramadi. "They said his unit was fighting an enemy ambush and he was hit by small arms fire," James said. The James family learned of their son's death at about 5 p.m. Saturday. His mother had talked with him by phone just two days before. James is the third Seaford man to be killed in Iraq. In addition to Palmer, Ryan Long, 21, a 1999 graduate of Seaford High School, was killed near Baghdad April 3, 2003, in a suicide bombing. Rick James was a 2004 graduate of the Seaford Christian Academy, where he played on the soccer, basketball and baseball teams. He joined the Marine Corps before graduation and left for boot camp on Father's Day 2004, his dad said. He was in Iraq from January to August 2005 and started this second tour the first week of March. "My heart's broken right now," said Chad Kreczmer, 19, who graduated with James and who now lives in Baltimore. "We were best friends since the sixth grade. We played soccer and basketball together and always hung out together. He was hilarious and would do anything for you." Gary Leach coaches soccer at the Seaford Christian Academy and attends the First Baptist Church, Seaford, where the James family goes. He said that he last saw James when he attended church before shipping out in March. "He was very sober," Leach said. "Much more sober than I had ever seen him." Leach said that on the soccer field, James, who played mid-field, was a very aggressive player. "He was very driven on the sports field," he said. "He gave it everything he could every minute he was on the field, and it didn't matter if we were losing by a whole lot. He was one of those guys that at the end of the game, he could hardly stand up." Leach said that James was a leader on the field, as well as in school. "He had a goal, to join the Marines, and the fact that we were at war didn't matter to him," he said. "He absolutely believed in what he was doing." "If he was going to do something, he was going to do it all out," said Jake James. "He was always moving. My nickname for him was Rascal, because he could always find a way to get you in trouble. But then he stuck with you until the trouble was solved." James said that his son always had a lot of friends. "People loved him, they loved him for the good things he did," he said. "On the basketball court, they maybe didn't like what he did, but when the game was over, they were there to give him a handshake or a hug."

Leach said that news of James' death was devastating. "I just kept thinking over and over, 'It can't be.' He was so strong, so full of life, so young. I just couldn't believe it." "My son is going to be missed by this whole community," said Jake James. "He died serving his country, and we should all hold him up as a hero." "It was his dream to go into the Marine Corps," said Kreczmer. "He gave his life for that cause. We are all very proud of him. He's my hero." Jake James has been teaching first grade at Blades Elementary for the past four years and prior to that he taught at Central Elementary. The loss of his son hit the school hard, according to Susan Nancarrow, principal at Blades Elementary. Three members of the James' family work at the school. "We were all very shocked, especially following so closely to the loss of Cory Palmer," she said. "But this school has always been a family and everybody is pulling together." She said that the school's SPARK teacher, Patty Eskridge, volunteered to take over James' class this week since substitute teachers are at a premium. There are two other relatives employed at the school including Rick's aunt, Jan Griffin, and his cousin, Susan Argo. "Monday was a very sad day here," Nancarrow said. "On Monday morning, the staff needed a lot of comfort and counseling. But it is incredible the way the school is pulling together." She said that counselors were brought into the school early on Monday to meet with staff and students. They were also available on Tuesday. Nancarrow said that the counselors and staff met with James' first graders at the start of the day on Monday. "We went to talk to his class first thing and explained to the kids what had happened. There were a lot of questions asked," she said. The official announcement was made at the end of the day. In addition, a note was sent home with every student. "We are really at a loss of what to do and how to comfort someone in this kind of situation," the principal added. "You just have to take one hour at a time, one day at a time." All staff members are wearing patriotic ribbons in memory of Rick James. In addition to his parents, Rick James is survived by two brothers, Jeff, a graduate of the Seaford Christian Academy, and Jon, a senior at the academy, a sister, Tina Gorman, Pensacola, Fla., who also graduated from the Seaford Christian Academy, his grandfathers, Kenneth James, Seaford, and Richard Lynch, Seaford, a nephew, Caleb, 2, and a niece, Anna, 2 months. Funeral services were not complete as of press time.

News tips wanted
Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers. Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.