Jason K. LaFleur began his six-week leave from Iraq in time to spend Father's Day with his family. When he surprised his mother by ringing the doorbell of her Seattle home wearing a camouflage uniform and carrying a large duffel bag, he got a surprise of his own.
LaFleur, who grew up in Lockhart, had come to see his mother and stepfather. Then he learned that his father, Chuck LaFleur, happened to be in Seattle on business.
"It was just fate," said Chuck LaFleur, who lives in Florida. "He took his stepdad and myself out to eat for Father's Day, and we had a good time."
The 28-year-old Army corporal died Saturday after the vehicle he was riding in struck an explosive device during a combat operation in Hawr Rajab, Iraq, the Defense Department said.
Sgt. Dustin S. Wakeman, 25, of Fort Worth and Pfc. Jaron D. Holliday, 21, of Tulsa, Okla., also died in the attack, the Defense Department said.
LaFleur's mother, Kei Torres, said her son had only five months left in Iraq.
She said he was an avid Texas Longhorns fan and was passionate about building a military career.
"When Jason made a final decision, he stayed with it," she said. "He lost the weight and got in shape; he thrived in a military environment."
Jason LaFleur was born in Houston and later moved to Lockhart with his family, graduating from Lockhart High School in 1997.
He took classes at the University of Mississippi and Texas State University before moving to Colorado in 2000. He worked for a recycling center in Durango and drove a bus for the Purgatory Ski Resort on the side.
In May 2005, he enlisted in the military and spent a year training for Iraq.
His sister, Megan LaFleur of Austin, said her brother was a private person and didn't tell his family about his plans to join the Army until after he enlisted.
"It scared me a lot because he wasn't scared," she said.
In October, LaFleur was deployed to Iraq.
He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team and 25th Infantry Division of Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Chuck LaFleur said his son was a talented, focused person who planned ahead.
"His mother always said that he was born at 40 years old," he said. "He was a very serious guy."
LaFleur is also survived by stepfather Alan Torres, stepbrother Shane Wilcox, stepsister Shannon Wilcox and niece Maya Wilcox.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Published in Austin American-Statesman on Aug. 7, 2007.