By Lindsay LaChapelle
As you drive across the bridge that sits across from City Hall on your daily commute, you will see a plaque memorializing Staff Sgt. Justin ” Dutch” Estes on each side. Many Greenwood residents pondered this young man’s story and the heroism that must have been shown for him to receive this honor.
Growing up in Sims, Arkansas, Sgt. Estes was raised by his Father Donald Estes; his mother, Diane Salyers; and with his sister, Kelli Estes. SSG Estes graduated from Oden High School in the year 2000 as an accomplished basketball player. In 2001, following high school, he joined the Army.
SSG Estes was awarded the Silver Star for his service, and the following is a narrative of what accompanied that award:
SSG Estes distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty of 5 March 2007, while serving as a Squad Leader in 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 2-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, during a complex improvised explosive device (IED) attack in the city of Samarra, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08.
SSG Estes’ platoon was tasked with conducting reconnaissance of the berm on the eastern side of the volatile city of Samarra in order to prevent the flow of insurgent forces into the city. During the patrol, the lead HMMWV struck a pressure-activated IED resulting in the catastrophic destruction of the vehicle, followed by a secondary command-detonated IED targeting the casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) team. SSG Estes was the truck commander of the third truck in the patrol when the first IED was struck, placing him 100 meters behind the lead HMMWV to provide security for the patrol.
The first IED engulfed the lead HMMWV in flames, leaving burning debris scattered around the detonation site. Five Paratroopers were injured in the blast, two of whom were thrown from the truck; they were still alive, but on fire and among the burning debris. Without hesitation and aware of the imminent danger posed not only by the flames and exploding ordnance but also secondary IEDs, SSG Estes grabbed the fire blanket and ran through the inferno surrounding the destroyed vehicle to render medical aid. SSG Estes feverishly attempted to save the life of SSG Stanley, providing medical care until the platoon medic arrived. SSG Estes then took charge of the combat lifesaver team and began moving casualties out of the wreckage and flames for treatment.
SSG Estes provided calm and decisive leadership at the detonation site, directing the continuing search for Paratroopers affected by the blast, even as ammunition cooked off around him. Having cleared the casualties from the fire, and with his equipment literally melting from the intense heat, SSG Estes remained at the side of SSG Stanley as he called the stretcher teams forward to conduct CASEVAC. As the teams approached, the imminent danger at which SSG Estes had placed himself in order to save the lives of his comrades was realized, as he was engulfed in a cloud of smoke and debris as a secondary IED detonated directly underneath his feet, killing him instantly.
In an ultimate act of bravery and selfless service to his comrades in which he gave his own life, SSG Estes attempted to save the lives of five of his comrades. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, SSG Estes gallantly gave his life for his country, upholding the highest traditions of military heroism and reflecting distinct credit upon himself, Task Force Two Panther, Task Force Lightning, and the United States Army.
This Fourth of July as we celebrate our freedoms and this great nation, let us also remember the young men and women who have given their all for this country as well. While there may never be enough we can do to show our thanks to this young man for his courageous service, we can be sure to keep his memory alive in our hearts forever, and his family in our prayers.