Joey Caron hadn't wrestled before he got to Washington High School in Parkland as a freshman.
“He got beat up a little bit,” head wrestling coach Jason Wiklund said Tuesday.
But Caron was determined, and bit by bit, his skills improved.
The 2007 Washington High graduate took that dedication to Afghanistan as a paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, family and friends said Tuesday.
It’s what many will remember about the soldier who was killed Sunday by an enemy explosive in Kandahar province.
Spc. Joseph T. Caron, named for his Vietnam veteran grandfather, was 21 years old.
The young man who took part in the Air Force JROTC as a Washington High School Patriot always knew he was destined for military service.
“For him, there was no other choice,” Wiklund said. “What he wanted to do in life was to serve his country.”
Caron, a member of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Bragg, N.C., was on foot patrol in the Arghandab River Valley when the explosion occurred, the Defense Department said Tuesday. It’s a particularly violent area of Afghanistan – a place where several members of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division have been wounded or killed, mostly in bombings.
The soldier’s father, Jeffrey Caron of Gresham, Ore., met his son’s casket at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware early Tuesday. Joey Caron’s grandfather, Joseph, a resident of Roy, made the trip too, along with a family friend.
His family last saw him when he was home on leave just before Christmas.
“He was scared, but he knew he had a job to do and a mission to do,” said his stepmother, Karen Caron. “He loved his country.”
He also adored his little sister, Cassie, and he returned to Washington High School to watch younger brother Josh and other students wrestle.
Family and friends said he harbored the heart of a jokester who loved to imitate Forrest Gump, make people laugh and make them smile.
He was “always there with a joke when you needed it most and always putting forth 110 percent with fiery intensity,” said Bravo Company commander Capt. Adam W. Armstrong in a news release.
“We knew we could depend on him in times when he was needed most,” he said.
Joey Caron was born July 29, 1988, in Tacoma. He enlisted in the Army as an infantryman right out of high school. Following completion of airborne and other training, he reported to Fort Bragg. His unit deployed to Afghanistan in September.
His dedication to country was rivaled only by his love for family.
He spent hours entertaining his sister, who’s now 8, and watched her every day for years while Karen Caron attended school, his stepmother said. “He helped us raise her; he was just so good with her.”
“And he loved to talk,” she added. “He was always keeping in contact with family, always talking to them. He would call my mom from Afghanistan.”
Joey Caron’s father also served in the Army and spoke proudly of his son.
“He believed wholeheartedly in what he was doing, and his concerns were for his fellow soldiers and the difficulty of the mission that they’re performing,” Jeffrey Caron said.
Joey Caron always “knew what he wanted, worked hard, and he got there,” wrestling coach Wiklund said.
By the end of his junior year, Caron set a goal to compete in the state tournament. He attended summer practice sessions and earned a spot in the 2007 competition as a senior. With that determination, he won a match in the 215-pound class.
“It’s a tragic loss,” Wiklund said of Caron’s death. “He was such a good kid.”
In addition to his father, stepmother, brother and sister, the soldier’s survivors include his mother, Tani Hubbard of Glenoma, Lewis County.
Local services are pending.