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UPDATE: Columbia soldier, Pfc. Jason Fingar, killed in Afghanistan

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | 9:04 p.m. CDT; updated 8:16 p.m. CDT, Monday, May 31, 2010

*CORRECTIONS: A previous version of this article misspelled the names of Shannon Forney, Raven Gillies, Corey Phan and the Puyallup Valley Corps.

COLUMBIA — Pfc. Jason D. Fingar was in a caravan of armored vehicles in southwestern Afghanistan Saturday when his vehicle was struck by a bomb. Three soldiers made it out alive, but Fingar became the first soldier from Columbia to be killed during combat since Steve J. Fitzmorris’ death in August 2008.

Fingar, 24, lived with his family in Columbia before enlisting in the Army in 2008. In early 2009, he was assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division in Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. He was deployed to Afghanistan in July 2009, and was set to return home June 30.

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Friends across the country expected to see Fingar soon, but are now mourning his death.

Shannon Forney,* 31, lived in Washington and has been friends with Fingar for five years. She and Fingar became fast friends. By the time he was deployed, the two would talk on the phone up to two or three times a week.

“He always had something sarcastic and silly to say,” Forney* said.

Fingar is the youngest of four siblings, three boys and a girl.

“They were three very mischievous and sarcastic brothers, but they did it out of love,” Forney* said. “They were brothers, but they were friends.”

Forney* said Fingar’s close relationship with his family, as well as his goofy personality, made him good with kids. Raven Gillies* of the Puyallup Valley Corps* in Washington, also remembers Fingar's way with children.

“I could sense that he had a great compassion for kids,” Gillies* said. “He was always a lot of fun to be with.”

Spc. Aaron Estabrook shared a barrack with Fingar during their initial training in Fort Knox, Ky. They both went to Fort Lewis, Wash., and served in Afghanistan. Estabrook remembered Fingar’s “contagious smile.” He said Fingar was positive and passionate, even while in Afghanistan.

Fingar’s determination made him an exceptional soldier, according to Estabrook. But Fingar's talents stretched beyond the military.

An avid musician, Fingar played the guitar and piano, plus brass instruments. He played in a Salvation Army church band while in Washington.

Spc. Corey Phan* was a member of Fingar’s platoon. He said Fingar was always playing a band called Skillet, whose song “Hero" was his favorite.

Jason Poff, a Salvation Army pastor in Joplin and 10-year friend, said Fingar was like a big brother to his four young children, who have been “crushed” by his death.

Gilles said she was amazed how Fingar dealt with the dangerous Afghan environment every day.

Fingar had one or two close calls with roadside bombings, Forney* said, to which she warned him to "please be careful."

Fingar would have received a specialist rank the first of June, Phan* said. He had already received multiple awards and decorations for his service in the Army, including the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal and Driver and Mechanic Badge.

His friends described Fingar as a devoted Christian.

Poff said he and his wife talked with Fingar about why he joined the Army.

“He said to us very plainly that he was determined to prove to us and to everybody that you could be a man of God and still fight for your country,” Poff said. “And that’s what he wanted to do, and he did it proudly.”

Phan* said Fingar was in his platoon for a reason — to share God’s word with his fellow soldiers.

“God’s will was done with Jason because any time anybody was in despair, he always had a way to motivate them and tell them how he overcomes everything,” Phan * said.

Fingar’s death hit members of his platoon hard. Phan* said they had never suffered a loss like this.

Poff, who will perform Fingar’s service, said he has tried to find answers for why Fingar died, but chooses to focus on his life.

“I’d rather look at how he lived,” Poff said. “He lived every day as an adventure and so the challenge for anybody that knew him is to honor him by the way we live. Don’t take any moment for granted.”

Forney* said she is thankful for his faith.

“I know that, even though it sounds cliche, he’s in a better place," she said.

— Missourian reporter Kristina Casagrand contributed to this report.


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