Friends of Staff Sergeant James Justice told of the fallen Iowa National Guard soldier’s love of his family and life during his funeral today at the I-K-M Manning High School gym in Manning. Hundreds turned out to honor the 33-year-old who died on a mission to rescue downed helicopter pilots in Afghanistan on April 23rd.
Jessica Fine worked with Justice’s wife Amanda and became friends with James too. Fine talked about how Justice would play with his 3-year-old daughter Caydence, and the relationship he had with his wife.
“Since James left for Afghanistan, he has sent the cutest love notes to Amanda and Caydence,” Fine said, “He never said much, but just enough that you could tell how much he missed and loved them.”
Fine says she was brought to tears as she looked at their Facebook pages and saw the notes they left for each other. Fine says Justice made an impression on her that she will never forget. She says while she only knew him for a few years, he always made her feel like a special friend.
“And I am honored to have known James because of the husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend that he was,” Fine said, “he died serving a country that he loved, and I can’t wait until the day when I can tell Caydence about what a hero and honorable man her daddy really was.”
Justice was born in Manning and grew up in Manila. Jason Erb was a longtime friend of Justice’s and fellow soldier. He said Justice was a die-hard Iowa Hawkeye fan, and had a hard time with it when Erb decided to play football for the Cyclones.
Erb says he would give Justice tickets for the home football games and Justice still wouldn’t root for Iowa State. He says Justice would go out and buy the opposing team’s t-shirt and root against Iowa State while sitting in the Cyclone parents’ section. Jeremy Vennink said he had tried to write something down to say about his friend, but ended up with a blank piece of paper. He instead spoke about how his friend would win over others.
“James was one of a kind, and his personality was infectious,” Vennink said. He says they’d walk into a bar and when they left, “he’d have 10 new friends, or four new enemies, and it was one way or the other every time.” Vennink says usually it was new friends that Justice made, and he said he was not surprised so many people turned out to honor him.
Vennink says Justice made so many friends every where he went, and since his death he keeps running into people who he hasn’t seen in 10 years and they start telling stories about Justice. Tyler Christianson told a story of a prank he and Justice pulled on another soldier, and how they laughed when they got caught. He says those are the things he will remember about his friend.
“James was an amazing, husband, son, brother, friend to all,” Christianson said,” I know the reason that we cry is because those times were so great.” Justice lived in Grimes and was a fulltime guardmember with the First Squadron 113th Calvary that is stationed at Camp Dodge. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.