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A Young Hero Remembered

Pfc. Dillon Jutras, deployed to Iraq earlier this year, was killed during combat operations last week.

Dillon Jutras loved to play soccer, listen to '80s music with his sister and dreamed of becoming a soldier, just like his father.

"I enlisted when I was 19 years old," he said, pausing for a moment. "He followed the same path."

Over the weekend, Pierre Jutras received the phone call every military family prepares for but hopes to never receive: his oldest son, Pfc. Dillon Jutras, had been killed in combat operations while serving in the U.S. Army in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq, near the boarder with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

"We spoke with him last week," said Pierre Jutras. His son told him "how proud he was of what he was doing," Pierre Jutras said. "He was happy with the soldiers he was serving with. He was looking forward to coming home for Thanksgiving."

Specific details about Dillon Jutras' death had not been made available when The Connection went to press Wednesday afternoon, nor had funeral arrangements been made, according to Kevin Arata, U.S. Army Human Resources Command spokesman.

The risk of being killed in combat is something every military family is aware of, said Pierre Jutras, but something for which no one can fully prepare. "I just can't believe it's real," he said, his voice wavering at times despite the pride he has for his son.

ACCORDING TO his father, Dillon Jutras loved his family and had a lifelong determination to follow in his father's footsteps.

"Dillon had enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps [JROTC] program at Edison High School and signed up for ROTC when he was a student at George Mason University," Pierre Jutras said. In December, Dillon Jutras, a 2003 graduate of Edison High School, told his family that school wasn't the path he wanted to take. He left school to enlist in the U.S. Army, which he did on Dec. 3, 2004. He was deployed to Iraq on Jan. 31, his father said.

An active athlete and runner, Dillon Jutras wanted to do something "special," and enlisted with the Army's Ranger Battalion, a highly-trained unit, Pierre Jutras said. He was a member of the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

His son was a "kind individual," Pierre Jutras said, someone "nobody could say a bad or mean word about. He was quiet and very reserved, but he was a good boy, he never got into trouble. We're all so proud of him."

The loss is especially difficult for Dillon's older sister, Heather, 21, herself an Army cadet at George Mason University.

"I don't know what to say," said Heather Jutras. "My fiancee and I would go bowling with Dillon. He was really good at that. We liked to drive around in his old truck and listened to '80s music."

Heather Jutras' brother was loved by everyone who knew him, she said. He was quiet and had a good sense of humor. "He could always make you laugh, he was always being goofy," she said.

Despite being the older sibling, Heather Jutras said she looked up to Dillon. "We helped each other out all the time. We would go to each other for advice and talk about anything and everything. He was my best friend," she said.

They would talk about joining the Army, hoping to make their father proud by continuing his legacy, she said. "Dillon always wanted to help everyone, he was always thinking of other people."

Dillon Jutras had been trained as an 11-B infantryman, said Maj. Elizabeth Robbins, an Army spokeswoman. No other deaths were listed in conjunction with the operation that killed Jutras, she said.

"I just can't speak enough about what Dillon had done with his life," said Randy Abner, a friend of the Jutras family. "He was a hard worker. "No matter what you asked him to do, he'd do it without a second thought."

The Jutras family is "doing all right," Abner said, finding comfort in the stream of phone calls and outpouring of sympathy they've received.

In addition to his father, Pierre, and sister, Heather, Dillon Jutras is survived by his mother, Julia, and two younger brothers, Dustin, 10, and Hunter Jutras, 8. A date for burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery has not been set.