Army PFC
Alanson, MI
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Memorial Location: 

Chamber of Commerce Park
S. Straights Highway
Indian River, MI

Killed while conducting combat operations 40 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq.

Assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Ft Hood, TX.

Justin Travis Paton was born on the Fourth of July 1982, to Don and Shelley Paton. He joined his siblings, Stormy and Adam and the family resided in a quiet country neighborhood just outside Indian River. He attended Inland Lakes Schools graduating in 2000. Justin grew up knowing the deep love of family, friends and neighbors. He enjoyed outside activities from the time he was an infant, playing in the dirt, exploring the woods, camping and marveling in the sunsets and sunrises.

As he grew, his interest in adventure also grew. His was the little forest green VW Jetta that always had his bright yellow kayak strapped to the top. Whenever he would see water that intrigued him he didn’t hesitate to pull over and launch into any direction. From Michigan to Florida, he paddled his way around Petoskey Stones and alligators, Lake Michigan to the Florida Keys, he wasn’t afraid to be young and open to whatever was around the corner. Eventually he added a second kayak atop his car and would share his love of kayaking and adventure with whomever he could entice.

His heart was as big as his stature, 6’ 4” in height – all of that, plus that size in love, compassion, desire and hope. He loved beyond anything, his nieces and nephews. He played and teased and bounced, his eyes sparkled each time any of them were around and they would carry on for hours. He had a special way of capturing the love of both young and old and those in between. His hugs were warm and comforting and his incredible artistic use of words, both written and spoken, soothed any ear.

In July of 2005, Justin received a water baptism by Pastor Jeff Ellis along the clear shores of Walloon Lake. His love for Jesus Christ was strong and his faith in all that is good was unwavering. When he joined the Army, he was proud to call home and tell stories of how he was a “Fisher of Men;” bringing Jesus into the hearts of the young men he spent so much time with while he was away from his family.

Before joining the Army, Justin worked at Northern Michigan Regional Hospital in Petoskey as a Patient Care Technician and as a Rehabilitation Technician, making many friends of the staff and patients alike. His hope in joining the Army was to go to college to earn a PhD in Orthopedics. He had a goal to live, learn and to serve the best way he could.

In August 2005, Justin joined the United States Army. He attended basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and advanced training at Fort Hood, Texas. On October 31, 2006, Justin was deployed to Camp Taji, Iraq. While there he gained the respect and friendship of many people and often corresponded with Army buddies stationed around the world. These friendships led to his nicknames, “Gentle Giant” because of his stature and “Corn Cob” because of having lived in Northern Michigan. Four months after his arrival in Iraq, on Saturday, February 17, 2007, PFC Justin T. Paton was killed in action while engaged in combat operations in Tarmiyah, Iraq. Justin’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Combat Life Saver Award.

Justin gave unselfishly, he loved truly and deeply and he lived a very full life for 24 years.


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