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Parents see son's death as inspiration for others

His name is etched on a granite memorial along with the thousands who have died since the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

September 10, 2011|By Sarah Peters
  • U.S. Army Specialist Justin W. Pollard's parents William "Bill" and Sue Pollard celebrate their son's life at the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial, where their son's name is inscribed among the thousands of names of all the fallen American service members in Afghanistan and Iraq.
U.S. Army Specialist Justin W. Pollard's parents… (Daily Pilot, Kevin…)

Sue and William "Bill" Pollard last spoke to their son, U.S. Army Specialist Justin Pollard, on Christmas 2003.

"We talked about how he was coming around to the tail end of his tour, and I asked him if he had any plans for when he got home, and if he thought that being in Iraq had been worthwhile," Sue Pollard said. "He said to me, 'I truly believe in the reason why we are here and that our being here is for the greater good. This is where I need to be.'"

Five days later, he was killed by friendly fire in Iraq.

Justin Pollard was born 21 years earlier on Oct. 12, 1982, at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. He signed up the day after 9/11 after watching the attacks live on TV with classmates at Irvine Valley College.

By joining the Army, he would become one of thousands of Americans spurred into action by the attacks that took place 10 years ago Sunday. Military recruitment gave him a "direction and a sense of purpose, which he had not had before," Sue Pollard said.

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"When he enlisted — when the thousands and thousands just like him went down to the recruitment office after Sept. 11 — they didn't know what they were going to do," Bill Pollard said. "They didn't know what to expect other than something was going to happen and that they wanted to be a part of it."

Their son was killed when a gun was accidentally discharged after his team returned from a late-night mission to search for insurgents outside of Baghdad.

Today, his name appears on Line 59 of Panel 2 in the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial in Irvine. His is one of 6,139 names representing Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan between October 2001 and July 2011.

The Irvine City Council, Irvine Police Department, Orange County Fire Authority, Gold Star families and many others will convene at 4 p.m. Sunday at Northwood Community Park off Bray and Yale avenues in tribute to the almost 3,000 people who died, including first responders and military personnel who answered the call to action on and in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

The memorial was dedicated in November. Since then, volunteers have sent almost 600 rubbings of etched names to families and friends nationwide.

Memorial visitors are encouraged to "adopt" a member of the Armed Forces by making a name rubbing and researching his or her biography online, said the memorial's director, Dale Jelinek.

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