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Army Spc. Jeffrey D. Bisson, 22, Vista; among 4 killed in roadside blast

February 18, 2007|Deborah Schoch | Times Staff Writer

After Jeffrey D. Bisson discovered how to hover in the air over his native Southern California, he never wanted to stop.

He bought the best skydiving gear, even a helmet with a camera on it. He would squeeze in every jump he could before the sun set. And he wanted those around him to dive with him.

"He would say, 'Come on, Mom, you have to do it.' And my husband would say, 'I'm not going to leave a perfectly good plane,' " said his mother, Laurie Bisson of Vista, where he grew up.

So instead he asked his new girlfriend, Rebecca, and she agreed to go sky diving with him a few days after Christmas 2005 in Eloy, Ariz. She got it.

"It's exhilarating. It's the feeling of just jumping out of the sky," said Rebecca, 19, who would marry him less than four months later. "Watching his face when I came down -- he said, 'You had fun!' "

Bisson did 20 jumps in three days on that trip. One of them, filmed by Rebecca, is still posted on his Web page. It shows him and his friends jumping off the basket of a circus-hued hot air balloon.

"Some people say I am a little on the crazy side when it comes to the stuff I do for fun," he wrote on his site, "but, hey, I like to live my life on the edge a little."

In the end, Bisson's passion for adventure and sky diving helped propel him into the Army and then to Iraq.

On Jan. 20, he was among four soldiers killed when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee in Karmah, west of Baghdad. Bisson, 22, was in Iraq on a one-year tour, serving with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Ft. Richardson, Alaska.

He was among eight Ft. Richardson paratroopers who died that day in two incidents, the largest number of deaths on a single day for troops from Alaska.

His MySpace site remains on the Internet, now filled with remembrances from friends and fellow servicemen. "RIP bro!!! You were an awesome man and the platoon is missing you so much," one soldier wrote. "I pray [you're] with the angels and are watching over us."

Bisson's parents trace his passion for outdoor adventure to his years as a Boy Scout.

"They did camping and fishing, went to many summer camps. Bows and arrows, swimming, hiking, biking, high adventure," his mother said.

Starting as a Cub Scout, Bisson achieved the honor of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Scouting. In his qualifying project, he worked with a team to build a drinking fountain outside a Salvation Army building where the Scouts met every week.

His wife thinks that Bisson's Scouting background helped prompt his decision to join the Army after graduating from Rancho Buena Vista High School. He wanted to travel the world, she and his mother said.

"His high school was right diagonal from the Army recruiters. They send the recruiters over to the high school to say, 'You're graduating. What do you want to do?' " his mother said.

He already had experience at two jobs, with FedEx and Cox Construction. But he also had a son from a former relationship. "I think the pressure of being an unwed father at an early age made him want to see other places," his mother said.

The Army led him to Alaska and Rebecca. Newly arrived at Ft. Richardson and eager for friends, he discovered her MySpace site. Rebecca still has the note he left for her.

"Hey, there, how's it going?" he wrote her on Aug. 24, 2005. "I just moved here from California in June, looking to meet some cool new people."

So Rebecca met him after her college classes four days later and they went to dinner. After that, she said, they were inseparable until he left for Iraq. He wanted to go fight, she said, because he wanted to ensure that Iraqis enjoyed freedom.

They were married on 3,510-foot-high Flattop Mountain near Anchorage in the mid-April wind with snow on the ground and the temperature in the 20s.

He wore jeans, a well-pressed T-shirt and a leather jacket. She wore jeans and a blouse.

"I was born and raised here," she said from the couple's Anchorage apartment, where her husband's voice is still on the answering machine.

They watched movies at home and went out to dinner, most often at Chili's. He asked constantly for chicken teriyaki for dinner, and she always made it for him. She couldn't say no.

His mother last talked to him the Saturday before he died. "You could just hear it in his voice, that he wasn't happy, that he wanted to be home," she said.

His wife last talked to him a few days later. "The last thing he said to me was, 'Did you ever get your belly button pierced?' " she said.

She has tried to go to Chili's, the last place they ate together, but couldn't. "I walked in and turned around and walked out," she said. "It was too hard."

He died just 10 days before he was due home on leave. "He would have been here now," his wife said.

In addition to his wife and mother, Bisson is survived by his father, Richard; a brother, Christopher, 18, of Carlsbad; and a son, Andrew, 4, from a previous relationship.


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