Reader's Comments

Janna Stafford     Shannon, MS
Ms. Jill-
My husband, Michael Stafford, and I were invited to the Gold Star Mothers' convention at Lochinvar in April.  It was so nice to meet everyone and to hear the stories of your children's bravery.  Thank you so much for honoring my husband at your meeting.  Thank you, John, for the sacrifice you made for our country.  You will never be forgotten.

Laura Hellums     Pontotoc MS
So thankful for who he was..... and we will never forget his sacrifice. Love you Jill, you really honor your son's life. I wish I could have met him.


Pam Presley Cousar     New Albany MS
So proud of your son Jill !! You are in my prayers

Patricia Freeman     Caledonia MS
Thank you John Self for your sacrifice a true American hero. Love you Jill.

A Selfless Life
Staff Sergeant John Self (USAF)
Pontotoc, MS
Died May 14, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq

Today's post is in honor of Air Force Staff Sergeant John Self. SSGT Self died in Baghdad, Iraq when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle. His decision to return to Iraq just 2 weeks after his previous deployment had surprised many of his fellow airmen.

"Blessed are the peacemakers". Air Force Staff Sergeant John Self quoted that verse from Matthew 5:9 to himself every day. It was a reminder of his mission - the very reason he had chosen to come to Iraq in the first place. He wasn't there to make war. He was there to help secure freedom for the Iraqi people and to help them rebuild a society that had a chance to prosper. John Self was not in Iraq to serve his own interests. He told his mother Jill Self that he wanted to make sure that the children of Iraq would one day experience the same kind of freedom he had experienced growing up in Pontotoc, MS. It was a personal mission that was right in line with his personality. Jill said he was a very loving child growing up. His teachers echoed that, saying he was one of the most kind-hearted kids they'd ever known. John Self was a peacemaker.

However, the mission to secure peace for Iraq was anything but peaceful. Just two weeks after returning from his third deployment to Iraq, SSGT Self heard about a special opportunity to help mentor members of the Iraqi security police force. The call for volunteers came with a warning label. Anyone who volunteered would be working in the toughest conditions Baghdad, Iraq had to offer. SSGT Self volunteer without flinching.

Chief Master SGT Keith Morris wanted to make sure SGT John Self understood the mission he had volunteered to undertake. This was not going to be an “easy” mission, not that any mission in Iraq was easy. But this one was different. Chief Master SGT Morris warned SGT Self that this mission would put him square in the “heat of danger”. SGT Self’s reply showed the kind of courage and conviction he had. SGT Self wrote back to his superior:

"Every time a military member comes to the desert, they're in the heat of danger.  We're in countries where people don't like us, and they would kill us the first chance they get. Besides, it's my job to be in the heat of danger. Whether it's looking for insurgents, guarding detainees, or sitting on a fence line, it's all dangerous and can result in death. Every time I set foot into a compound, I am risking my life for my country. It is my job to serve my country to the best of my ability and die for it if I must."

John ultimately took the mission and served faithfully. In addition to a rigorous training regiment with the Iraqi teams, he had led 79 patrols outside their secure compound and into the dangerous streets of Baghdad. It was on May 14, 2007 that SSGT Self led his last patrol, when an IED detonated, blowing up his Humvee and wounding three others inside.  Major David Harris later honored Self’s sacrifice. "We were fortunate to draw some of the best Airmen and NCOs our career field has to offer for this mission,” Harris said. “They were willing to step out of their comfort zone and tackle challenges unknown to most of their peers. Sergeant Self was probably one of our most extreme cases of that special type.”

His unit had a strong attachment and affection for SSGT Self. The photos from the memorial service held in his honor at Balad Air Base in Iraq show just how much he meant to them. One by one, the men and women of his unit moved forward towards the makeshift altar to clutch his dog tags in their hand. It was a very tough loss for all of them. When his body arrived back at Columbus AFB, MS, the airmen of the base lined the street for more than a mile from the runway to the main gate. It was a solid blue line of honor for SSGT Self. The same show of respect was repeated in Pontotoc as the townspeople lined their streets, too. From Baghdad to Columbus AFB to Pontotoc, SSGT Self's sacrifice was appreciated by all.

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SSGT John Self (USAF) was a native of Pontotoc, MS who loved to hunt, fish, and play computer games. He is one of four young men from Pontotoc, MS to die in Iraq since 2005.

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