Ramona soldier, 20, dies in Iraq
Just over a month ago, U.S. Army Pfc. Michael Robert Jarrett, 20, of Ramona stood in full dress uniform in the Bonham Bros. & Stewart Mortuary at the funeral of a friend.
On Saturday, family and friends will gather at the same place to honor Jarrett, who died on Jan. 6 in Balad, Iraq, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, in Illesheim, Germany.
“Mike was 6’5”, 160 lbs, lean and had a smile that would brighten a room,” said his mother, Brenda Jarrett. “People always remembered him by face and personality. Like so many young boys, he needed direction. He joined the Army in August 2008, deciding the military was something to help him get the direction he was searching for. His test scores were super high. It qualified him for being a 15 Romeo, a mechanic for Apache helicopters.
“Mike was a Boy Scout since Tiger Cubs at 6 years old up to a Life Scout,” said his mother. “He loved camping with the Boy Scouts, in the desert with friends, riding three-wheelers. He always found it easy to make friends. Whether digging for crabs at the beach or hanging out with buddies, he had a way of getting everyone around him involved in what he was doing.”
Jarrett served as a mentor and teacher to the younger Scouts at camp and enjoyed the flag retirement ceremonies at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
Jarrett attended Ramona High School, but left and earned his diploma from Ramona Unified School District’s adult school program on June 14, 2007, leaving a remarkable imprint on friends and family along the way, his mother continued.
Recognized as the “tall and lanky kid with the incredible smile,” Jarrett enjoyed the ROP welding program at Ramona High School. When he and best friend Andy Clark (6’10”) walked into a room, it was difficult to not notice them, his mother said.
“We didn’t call him Mike,” said Clark. “Anyone who knew him really well, we all called him ‘Potato.’”
Clark explained. “Yeah! I knew Mike since his freshman year. I met Mike through a group of gaming buddies. We were all pretty close. One of the first times he came over to play games (Halo II), it was him and this other guy. Instead of entering a character name, they both wanted to be the default so the game ended up creating a random name for Mike. For the next hour we all kept getting killed by ‘Potato.’ The guys kept saying, ‘Dude! Who’s Potato?’ Mike in the next room said, ‘I am Potato!”
The name stuck. From that day forward, according to Clark, “All of Mike’s friends—those of us who were closest to him—even my mom and sister always called him Potato. Mike was my friend, but he was more like a little brother that I didn’t have. We always would hang out at school. We clicked better than anybody else.”
Shocked by the news of Jarrett’s death, Ramona High School automotive instructor Robert Grace said he remembers him well.
“He was a great kid with a good attitude,” said Grace. “I know how people always say that, but he really was just a dang, solid kid. He always did what was asked of him. If I could pick only four or five courageous kids in the world, he would be one of them.”
Grace describes Jarrett as a polite, gangly, goofy kid with a big heart.
“He thrived in the hands-on classes,” said Grace. “The auto and welding was where he was comfortable. Jarrett offered to ‘come back some time’ to speak with the students, telling me about all the helicopter parts, what moved and so on. He wanted to share his knowledge and expertise with the kids here.”
Pausing, Grace said with a laugh, “He had this smirky smile that always made you think like he was up to something. I’d say ‘Whattaya doing?’ and he would say, ‘Nothing.’ But all I could do was laugh and tell him, ‘All right, well knock it off!’ Wow. It is a shame that we have lost him. I am really going to miss knowing he will not be around.”
Jarrett and Clark decided they were ready for a change of scenery, said Clark. “It started out as a joke from my mom, really. Mike and I were giving her a hard time and she said, ‘if you don’t get your stuff together, I am going to ship you off to your Uncle Johnny in Nebraska!’ I said ‘Cool! When do I get to go?”
Clark said Jarrett met Army recruiters in Nebraska during fantasy card games the friends frequented.
“Things weren’t going so good at one point and Mike looked at the Army and National Guard as an option,” said Clark. “He decided it was better than minimum wage in Nebraska. He scored really good in the ASVAB (military entrance exam) and, because of his higher scores, one of the options for him that came up was to be a helicopter mechanic.”
Jarrett is survived by his parents Robert and Brenda Jarrett of Ramona, sister Katie Jarrett, grandparents Robert and Helen Allen, and many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
A visitation will be held in the Bonham Bros. & Stewart Mortuary Chapel at 321 12th St. on Friday, Jan. 22, from 5 to 8 p.m.
The funeral service will be held in the Bonham Bros. & Stewart Mortuary Chapel on Saturday, Jan. 23, at 11 a.m., with burial immediately following at the Nuevo Memory Gardens at 532 Ash St. in Ramona.
A celebration of his life will be held at VFW Post 3783 in Ramona, 2247 Kelly St. after the services on Saturday. For more information, contact the mortuary at 760-789-1678.
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