Last Known Activity|
Army Sgt. Shawn Adams, 21, Dixon, Calif.; killed while on patrol in Iraq
Obituaries / MILITARY DEATHS
August 12, 2007|JACK LEONARD | Time Staff Writer
Shawn Adams was always seeking the next rush. As a slim, sinewy kid growing up in Vacaville, Calif., he loved the thrill of roller coasters, the roar of drag racers at a nearby racing strip and cruising around on Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
At 17, he enlisted in the Army and found more thrills as a paratrooper, throwing himself out of airplanes and flying in helicopters.
The night before his first parachute jump, he called his mother, Laura Gillis, at her home in Dixon, Calif.
"He said, 'Mama, I'm going to call you on my cellphone on the way down,' " she recalled. "I said, 'Oh, my gosh! You call me when you're safe and back on the ground.' "
The jump went off without a hitch -- and he didn't call while in free fall.
"He was just incredible," said his mother. "He never had any fear in his life."
In mid-July, Adams was nine months into his first tour in Iraq. He called his mother to say that he was holed up in a military base south of Baghdad. While fellow soldiers enjoyed the respite from fighting, finally able to shower and relax, the 21-year-old Army Ranger longed for action.
"He was bored and he wanted to do a job, go out on a mission and do what he was trained to do," she said.
It was the last time they talked. Adams was killed July 22 after an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle while he was on patrol near Owaset. The date marked his first wedding anniversary.
Adams came from a military family. His father and grandfather served in the Navy, and Adams' father recalled that his son showed a warrior's spirit from an early age.
At 5 feet 10 and 160 pounds at his heaviest, the blue-eyed, blond Adams played center in his junior year for Vanden High School's varsity football team, often out-muscling larger opponents during a winning season.
"He wouldn't back down. He wouldn't give up," said his father, Darcey Adams.
Father and son took trips together to watch drag races at what was then Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma County. At around 9 years old, Adams was allowed to drive mini-dragsters. He became hooked on the sport.
Adams also was a fierce patriot. As a teen, he was deeply affected by the Sept. 11 attacks. He enlisted less than three years later. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Ft. Richardson, Alaska.