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    Born on:  25 Sep 2005 
    Updated: 07 Aug 2006

United States of America USA  


The following entry is NEW within the last 30 days if a 'New' Icon is present 
Thurmont Marine killed in Iraq Published on August 1, 2006 

Lance Cpl. James Willard Higgins Jr., USMC, 22, of Thurmont, was killed Thursday, July 27, in Al Anbar, Iraq.

By Alison Walker-Baird 
News-Post Staff 
THURMONT-- If everything had gone as planned, Deborah Higgins of Thurmont would be welcoming her son James home in three weeks. Instead, she is planning his funeral.
Marine Lance Cpl. James Willard Higgins Jr., 22, died Thursday from wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, his family said Monday. He was assigned to the Weapons Company 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Lance Cpl. Higgins, a 2003 graduate of Catoctin High School, deployed to Iraq in January. He was scheduled to arrive in California in mid-August and fly into Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Aug. 26.

The son of Ms. Higgins and James W. Higgins Sr. of Elizabethtown, Pa., Lance Cpl. Higgins will be buried with full military honors Friday at Resthaven Memorial Gardens in Frederick.

His mother, sister Melinda and brother Joseph sat at the family's kitchen table Monday evening sorting through pictures of Lance Cpl. Higgins with his family. While some memories evoked smiles and others tears, Ms. Higgins said her son would have been proud of the way he died.

"He believed in freedom and in serving his country, he believed in standing up for what is right," she said.

Melinda Higgins, 18, said Lance Cpl. Higgins wouldn't have wanted to die any other way.

Melinda had helped her brother pick out Marine-red sheets and a bedspread that decorated his bed in the family's home. A wall in his room was adorned with a large Marine Corps poster and a teddy bear held an American flag.

"He was very honored to be a Marine -- he was honored to be chosen to serve," Lance Cpl. Higgins' mother said.

A legacy of hard work and determination

Lance Cpl. Higgins' friends and family said he lived his life with dedication and passion for the military, academics, football and flying. In 1999, he joined the Frederick Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol and received numerous decorations, including Most Gung-Ho Cadet in 1999 and Tri-Wing Encampment Honor Cadet in 2000.

Ms. Higgins said her son had aimed to be president of the United States since he turned 11. "He loved his country with all his heart," said Joseph Higgins, 20.

Lance Cpl. Higgins joined the Marine Corps in April 2005 and completed basic training at Parris Island, S.C., that June. He graduated School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in September 2005, qualifying as a Machine Gunner Rifle Sharp Shooter and that month joined the Weapons Company.

Lance Cpl. Higgins received the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the Combat Action Ribbon and the Purple Heart.

Catoctin High's athletic director, Tom Sherald, said Lance Cpl. Higgins was disciplined in his approach to everything, from being clean -cut and well-dressed -- sometimes wearing his air patrol uniform to school -- to excelling on and off the football field.

In addition to being an honor roll student all four years of high school, Lance Cpl. Higgins played junior varsity football in 9th grade and varsity from 10th to 12th grades. 

He was also named Most Valuable Player of his Catoctin Youth Association Baseball team and was the 1998 Catoctin Youth Association Football MVP on defense,his mother said.

Mr. Sherald said Lance Cpl. Higgins was a conscientious and versatile football player. "He was a quiet, polite young man," he said. "I'm sure he was as much of an asset to the troops as he was to us."

He said striking similarities exist between Lance Cpl. Higgins and fellow Catoctin High graduate U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Seidel III, who died in Iraq in May, from the men's strength to their patriotism.

"It's a real shame," he said. "These two boys died within two months of each other. We buried Robby on Memorial Day and now, two months later, we'll bury James."

Friends cope with reality

The news of Lance Cpl. Higgins' death is still sinking in for his best friend, Shawn Kelly, 19, of Thurmont. "I'm stunned; I don't know how to process it," Mr. Kelly said Monday evening. "To me, he's still over there."

Little things like not being able to toss around a football in the backyard will remind him of his friend's death, Mr. Kelly said. He had been friends with Lance Cpl. Higgins since elementary school. "It was me and him all the time."

Mr. Kelly and Lance Cpl. Higgins spoke for the last time about a week before his death, about what they would do when Lance Cpl. Higgins came home in August.

"My father and grandfather had a bad feeling about him [serving in Iraq], but I never had that feeling," Mr. Kelly said. "I just thought about when he gets back, that we were going to hang out, grow old together. This war never really felt that real to me."

Mr. Kelly and Lance Cpl. Higgins' friend Marine Pvt. James Michael Campbell of Thurmont will serve as honorary pallbearers at his funeral Friday, along with Lance Cpl. Higgins' father and brother.

Viewings for Lance Cpl. Higgins will be held 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, as well as 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Thursday at the Stauffer Funeral Home, 104 E. Main St., Thurmont.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the
Lynfield Event Complex, 10142 Hansonville Rd.,
Frederick, off U.S. 15.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the James W. Higgins Jr. Benefit Fund, care of M&T Bank at the Francis Scott Key Mall Branch, 5585 Spectrum Drive in Frederick. Proceeds from the fund will be given to the Catoctin High School Football Program and toward college expenses for Joseph and Melinda Higgins. 


Family mourns fallen Marine
Thurmont man remembered for his patriotism By Nicole Fuller sun reporter

Originally published August 1, 2006
When he was 11, Lance Cpl. James W. Higgins Jr. asked his mother for a gift that might seem a peculiar request from a child: an American flag.

Every morning, he raised that flag, which flew outside his family's Thurmont home. And he lowered it at dusk.

"It had to be positioned outside of his window just so, so that he could see it every morning," said his mother Deborah S. Higgins. "He was just so patriotic. People would ask him, 'What's your most prized possession?' And he would say the American flag."

Higgins, 22, a member of the Marine Corps and 2003 graduate of Catoctin High School, was killed in Iraq on Thursday during fighting in Al Anbar province, the Defense Department said yesterday. He was shot in the chest, his mother said.

He was the fourth service member from Maryland to die in Iraq in the past three weeks and the 52nd since the war began in 2003. Another Catoctin alumnus, Army Lt. Robert Seidel III, was killed in Iraq in May.

Through history classes in school and many hours in front of the television watching the History Channel and CNN, Corporal Higgins' affinity for the military grew. He joined the Marines on April 11, 2005, after a brief stint at Frederick County Community College, and arrived in Iraq in January.

"He goes, 'Mom, if something happens to me, make sure I'm remembered,'" his mother said.

Deborah Higgins said she last spoke to her son the Sunday before he died. She said he was scheduled to return to his home base in California in mid-August, where she and her two other children, Joseph, 20, and Melinda, 18, would meet him. She is divorced from his father, James W. Higgins Sr., who lives in Pennsylvania.

"He sounded concerned with the escalation of everything and that he really couldn't wait to get home," Deborah Higgins said. "He wanted to come home and he wanted to sit outside and know that he wasn't going to be shot. He wanted to take a deep breath, relax, spend some time with his family."

Since he was 13, Corporal Higgins had been a member of the Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol, where he developed a love for aviation. He took private lessons to become a pilot.

"He said it was like being a bird in the sky," his mother said. "It was so peaceful."

In high school, he played football and earned honor roll grades. His favorite subject was history.

"In high school and junior high he studied history and he was an excellent history student," his mother said. "There wasn't anything you could ask him about history that he didn't know ... . He enjoyed it and the more he learned about history, the more he wanted to be part of something special."

"What does 1941 stand for?" Corporal Higgins would ask, his mother remembered. "What time of day did Pearl Harbor start?"

"He would use history as a quiz," his mother said. "He would trip everybody up. He just loved history. He loved his country. He loved what America stood for."

Jack Newkirk, the principal at Catoctin High School, never met Corporal Higgins. He began working at the school only a year ago. But he said that staff members at the school recalled him yesterday as "a good football player, a solid student and well-liked."

"He made it well known that he had chosen the military as his career when he was in high school," Mr. Newkirk said.

As a junior, Corporal Higgins had helped bring the Catoctin Cougars football team its first winning season in five years with a 30-yard kickoff return that helped set up the game-clinching drive against Brunswick, according to a November 2002 article in the Frederick News-Post.

"I wasn't surprised," the young Higgins told the paper. "I'm ready for anything. I went to the outside and stepped on the first person that came at me. Football is a game of field position and I'm glad we went down and scored."

Joseph Higgins played football alongside his brother in high school and remembered him yesterday as "a loving, caring man - a great Marine."

"When I got the news that he was going to Iraq, I was proud for him, because that's what he wanted to do, because he was proud of his country. But I was also worried for him. But I stood behind him and supported him all the way."
Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article. 

This information compiled by Michael James Higgins
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