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  #1  
February 11th, 2007, 11:28 AM
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By MEG KINNARD, Associated Press Writer Sun Feb 11, 7:09 AM ET


COLUMBIA, S.C. - For weeks, Chief Warrant Officer Jason DeFrenn's family awaited his homecoming, a trip planned as much more than a simple respite from his second tour in Iraq: The nine-year Army veteran was returning to South Carolina to help his wife give birth. Instead, his loved ones are making plans for the 34-year-old Army pilot's funeral.
DeFrenn's Apache helicopter was shot down on Feb. 2 — two weeks before he was supposed to be back in his native state. Wracked by grief, his wife went into labor early, giving birth to a boy just days after her husband's death.
It's newborn Christopher who's now providing the family a measure of solace. "A healing child," is how Jason DeFrenn's father explains it as he alternately gazes at a photo of the son he lost, and at a card stamped with the footprints of his new grandson.
"It's a wonderful thing that's happened here in the last couple of days, in a way," said Garth DeFrenn. "But it's going to be a tough month."
Twenty-three Marines and soldiers have died in helicopter crashes in Iraq since Jan. 20. Most, like DeFrenn, are believed to have been shot down. The latest, which killed seven Marines when their transport helicopter crashed Wednesday, remains under investigation. Four American civilian contractors also were killed in a recent crash.
The deaths have raised questions about whether insurgents are using more sophisticated weapons or whether U.S. tactics need changing.
But in South Carolina, Jason DeFrenn's family is focusing on the new baby and the boy's three siblings, not how their father died. Garth DeFrenn coached Jenny DeFrenn through the delivery.
"I guess I tried to take Jason's place a little bit," Garth DeFrenn said. "I didn't really take Jason's place, but I was just trying to be there for her."
"This is all about Jason and Jenny and those four children," he said. "It started with him doing something very, very remarkable. It went to her regenerating life again."
Jenny DeFrenn struggled at first with choosing a name for her infant, born four days after the crash. She decided on Christopher Andrew, the name that she and her husband had picked months ago, rather than naming him after his father.
"She always did what Jason wanted," Garth DeFrenn said last week. "She always followed him and supported him."
The support took the couple, who met while Jason DeFrenn was managing a Pizza Hut, from South Carolina to Texas, where he was based at Fort Hood after joining the Army nine years ago. He served one tour in Afghanistan before twice going to Iraq.
His father said the military gave DeFrenn the excitement he had sought as a boy while hunting and fishing near their hometown of 5,000 about 60 miles south of Columbia.
"When he was young, he had a spirit of wanting to be a hero," Garth DeFrenn said. "He was one of those kids who wanted adventure."
The DeFrenns are now making plans for Jason's funeral in the small town of Barnwell. He'll be buried in his family's plot, as his father believes he would have wanted. The governor plans to grant a request to lower the state's flags.
On an overcast afternoon last week, during a trip to visit his daughter-in-law and new grandson in a Columbia hospital, Garth DeFrenn walked through a city park that is home to dozens of memorials to war veterans. He paused on a footbridge to look out over the granite monuments and bronze sculptures, and broke into tears.
"I don't think I'll ever come back to this place," he said. "No, I won't ever come back."
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  #2  
February 11th, 2007, 01:25 PM
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WOW... So sad..
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  #3  
February 11th, 2007, 03:26 PM
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  #4  
February 12th, 2007, 09:36 AM
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Yeah I read that a few days ago.
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February 12th, 2007, 09:41 AM
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