By Danza Johnson
PONTOTOC – John Self's preacher says the 29-year-old's death in Iraq on Monday was shocking, but not surprising.
“He was in his fourth tour as a military policeman,” said the Rev. Don Smith, preacher of the Algoma Baptist Church, where Self had attended since he was a little boy. “That's one of the most dangerous jobs a person can have in Iraq, but John loved it, he loved serving his country.”
Self, a staff sergeant, became the second Northeast Mississippi soldier killed in Iraq in less than a week when a roadside bomb exploded Monday in Baghdad, hitting the vehicle he was in. He also became the fourth Iraq casualty from Pontotoc County.
Jill Self said her son had volunteered again and again because he wanted to serve his country.
“He had volunteered for this mission. He wanted to serve his country,” she told The Associated Press. “His commanding officer called this morning and said he was good airman and his unit from Arkansas called and said he had done his job.”
John Self, an Air Force security officer, was stationed in Little Rock, Ark., as part of the 314th Security Forces Squadron military police. He had been in Iraq since September and had entered the Air Force in 1999, said his mother.
His father, Robert, was killed in an 18-wheeler accident a few years ago.
As a 1998 graduate of South Pontotoc High School, Self was a trumpet player in the marching band. Some of his teachers were shocked by the news of his death.
Linda Weeks, one of them, said he was a wonderful person.
“I have known John and his family for years,” said Weeks. “I taught him at school and in Sunday School. He was a wonderful young man. I saw him a few months back at church.
“It was obvious that he was proud to be an American soldier,” she recalled. “My heart goes out to his family.”
Edna Scott said she had the pleasure to teach John when he was a ninth-grader.
“He was so friendly and kind-hearted,” said Scott. “He was always ready to help any one. He and my oldest daughter were great friends.
“He took good care of her on their yard-rolling adventures every Halloween,” she noted. “We'll really miss him.”
Sources close to the family said his mother received news of his death late Monday afternoon. An Air Force official said it likely will be seven to 10 days before his body will arrive at Dover Air Base, Del.
Smith said that even though John was on the quiet side, news of his death has been heard throughout Pontotoc County.
“He was well loved in the community,” said Smith. “He was very involved in the church at an early age. People are never going to forget John. He was a great person and great soldier.”
Self was the second Northeast Mississippian to die within the past week. Sgt. Jason W. Vaughn, 29, of Iuka, died May 10 in Baqubah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle.
The other three war victims from Pontotoc County are Pvt. Barry W. Mayo, 21, of Ecru, killed in March; Cpl. Clifton B. Mounce, 22, of Pontotoc, who died in 2005; and Lance Cpl. Marc L. Tucker, 24, of Pontotoc, also killed in 2005.
Self's death brings to 55 the number of people from Mississippi or with strong ties to the state to die in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an unofficial Associated Press count.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Daily Journal law enforcement reporter Danza Johnson at 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Services set for Jason Vaughn
IUKA – The funeral will be Saturday in Tishomingo for Sgt. Jason Walter Vaughn of Iuka, killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq last week.
Visitation is planned for Friday night at Gospel Lighthouse Pentecostal Church on Highway 25.
Vaughn, 29, was on his second tour of duty in Iraq with the Stryker Brigade.