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MILITARY DEATHS

Marine Lance Cpl. Jason D. Hill, 20, Poway; killed in Afghan firefight

He knew early on that he wanted to be a Marine. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather also were Marines. And his older brother is a Marine sniper who was about a dozen miles away when he died.

July 03, 2011|By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
  • Jason Hill spoke to his father by phone about 10 hours before he was killed about the difficulty of the Marine mission in Afghanistan. He believed the mission was doable, his father said, if we stick to it.
Jason Hill spoke to his father by phone about 10 hours before he was killed…

Jason Hill was from a Marine Corps family.

His father, grandfather and great-grandfather served in the Marines. Early on, Hill knew he wanted to be a Marine but some youthful misbehavior and a casual attitude toward high school gave the Marines pause about allowing him to enlist.

So with urging from his father and guidance from his homeroom teacher at a continuation school in the San Diego suburb of Poway, Hill got serious: bringing up his grades, running every day to get in shape and avoiding behavior that had gotten him in trouble.

In 2008, he graduated from Abraxas High School. In 2010, he completed Marine boot camp in San Diego and later trained at the school of infantry at Camp Pendleton. He was excited when his battalion deployed to Afghanistan.

On June 11, Lance Cpl. Jason D. Hill, 20, was killed by small-arms fire in the Narh-e Saraj district of southern Helmand province, near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

Hill, an infantry "grunt," was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, part of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. His unit arrived in Afghanistan in April as the Marines continued their assault on Taliban fighters to prepare the region for eventual control by Afghan security forces.

"My son died doing exactly what he wanted to do: supporting his men and his country," said Charles Hill, a building contractor. "He died in a hell of a firefight."

Bob Lutticken, Hill's homeroom teacher at Abraxas, said his death was shocking but somehow not surprising.

"I cried like a baby when I heard," Lutticken said. "When he went to Afghanistan, I just knew he was going to be the guy who was in the thick of the fight."

Hill's body was escorted home from Afghanistan by his older brother, Lance Cpl. Aaron Hill. The 22-year-old is a sniper with the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and was about a dozen miles away when his brother was killed.

When the Marines came to his door, Charles Hill knew immediately the reason for the unannounced visit. "I only had one question: Which one?" he said.

Three dozen of Jason Hill's friends came to San Diego's Miramar Marine Corps Air Station when his flag-draped casket arrived on a charter flight. Among them was Amanda Vaughn, 22, who had Hill's name and birth date tattooed on her arm in his memory. "He was special," she said tearfully.

Hill, born in San Diego, was buried at Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery in the city's Point Loma neighborhood. His grandfather, Donald Hill, who received a Bronze Star for bravery in World War II, is buried there.

On the lawn of the family home in Poway, Charles Hill created a memorial to his son, the classic inverted rifle display, with boots and dog tags, flanked by U.S. and Marine Corps flags. The lawn was covered with flowers left by neighbors and others.

About 10 hours before he was killed, Hill spoke to his father by phone about the difficulty of the Marine mission in Afghanistan. "He believed the mission was doable," his father said, "if we stick to it."

Under Marine rules about the combat death of a relative, Aaron Hill could have remained in the U.S. after his brother's death. Instead he has decided to return to his unit in Afghanistan, where fighting continues.

Another brother, Dylan, 16, is signed up to join the Marine Corps once he graduates from Abraxas. When he was asked whether his brother's death has made him reconsider enlisting, he seemed startled at the idea.

"If I changed my mind because of this," he said, "Jason would be mad at me."

His father was not surprised at the response.

"He's a Hill," he said, nodding at Dylan. "We stand up for what we believe."

In addition to his father and brothers, Hill's survivors include his mother, Patrice Adams; his grandmother, Lu-Gray Hill; and his grandfather, Gordon Gilbert.

tony.perry@latimes.com

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