United States Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joel Dameron would be an electrical engineer if life had gone the way it was supposed to. He’d be a husband, a father, a brother, an uncle, a son.
Most importantly, he’d be alive.
Instead, Dameron, a 1997 Bryan County High School graduate who grew up in North Bryan, was killed more than a decade ago by an IED in Iraq during his second deployment.
It happened Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005. His mother, Doris Mercer, was getting ready for Monday when a group of casualty assistance officers, two Marines and a sailor, came to her home.
Mercer said she knew right away why they were there. Both her sons, Joel and Marshall, were Marines. Joel was in Iraq, Marshall had just come back stateside.
“When I saw them I immediately knew that one of my sons was gone,” she said. “This was without a doubt the worst day of my life. Having to tell Joel’s brothers and sister was horrifying. It didn’t feel real. It was and still is like a nightmare that I can’t wake from.”
For Mercer, faith and church and family keep her going as she struggles, still, with the loss of her son.
The memories are of a good kid, one with a knack for electronics and jokes.
“Joel was quiet and kind of shy as a kid but came out of his shell as a teen and liked to play jokes on people,” Mercer said. “He liked video games and anything electronic. I came home from work one day and he had our non-working VCR taken apart in the living room floor and he fixed it. I think he was maybe 10 or 12 at the time. Electronics came natural to him.”
The promise of working with electronics is what got Dameron to enlist. “He met with a recruiter in high school and was offered a job in electronics and that sealed the deal for him,” Mercer said. “His first MOS (military occupational specialty) was avionics electronics.”
Dameron signed up and shipped out for boot camp right after he graduated from BCHS. After his first enlistment was up, Dameron reenlisted and changed his MOS to one of the military’s most dangerous occupations, explosive ordinance disposal.
That meant he would be defusing bombs like the one that killed him. Only it shouldn’t have.
Dameron was riding shotgun in a military vehicle with two other Marines as part of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, on what was Mercer said was supposed to be a “secure road,” when the vehicle was hit by the IED.
He took the brunt of the blast and died there, near Amiriyah, Iraq.
Life went on back here as best it could.
In January, 2006, Dameron’s wife and high school sweetheart, Logyn, gave birth to their daughter Layla, who never got to meet her father.
Dameron’s younger brother, Marshall, who went to boot camp in 1999, also right out of high school, remains in the Marines, having deployed several times to Afghanistan, Iraq and other places Mercer can’t disclose.
And all these years later, some days remain worse than others for Mercer, who attended but didn’t speak at the recent Memorial Day Ceremony sponsored by the city of Pembroke and American Legion Post 164.
But if she had, she might have said this, because this is what she wants you to know about her son, who 14 years ago died at the age of 27 serving his country in a far off place as part of a war that has been going on for 18 years now.
“Joel was easy going and kind. He was a wonderful son, brother and uncle. Joel was a great husband to his wife Logyn, his high school sweetheart, and dad to his young stepson Riley. He was excited about the upcoming birth of his daughter Layla who was born in January 2006. Sadly Layla never got to meet her father.
Our family tries to make sure she knows him through us. Joel loved his family very much.”
And this, too.
“He was a great Marine and always put others before himself which earned him a Bronze star with Valor for his actions in Iraq,” Mercer said. “He is missed so much there are no words. Joel’s sacrifice and other brave men and women like him are the reason we enjoy the freedoms we have in this country.”
And finally, this, a result of a newspaper story that you’ve hopefully read all the way until the end.
“It’s funny,” she said. “He would be mortified at the attention. I can hear him now saying ‘Really Mom?’”