From: Vail Daily

Summit resident killed in Iraq

Nicole Formosa
November 18, 2004

PARK COUNTY - A former Summit High School student and athlete serving in Iraq was killed Saturday while warning Iraqis about an upcoming raid.

The Detroit Free Press reported a roadside bomb in the embattled city of Fallujah killed 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Ellsworth. His death occurred while he was moving from house to house alerting families to danger.

Ellsworth's mother, Tracy Loveberry-Ross, who lives in Fairplay, knew immediately she had lost her son when she opened her door to two Marine officers last Saturday evening.

"Like any parent, I was devastated. It's not want you want to open your door to," said Loveberry-Ross. "It's every parent's worst nightmare."

Loveberry-Ross said Justin first started to show interest in joining the service after the Sept. 11 attacks, then enlisted in the Marines in 2003 during his senior year in high school.

He went to boot camp in September 2003, then was deployed to Iraq this past September, just after Labor Day, she said..

Once Ellsworth was in the Middle East, lines of communication were excellent and she usually talked to him on the phone about once a week and more often via the Internet, Loveberry-Ross said.

Although Ellsworth couldn't talk about the details of his missions, Loveberry-Ross said, her son knew he was making a difference.

"He told me the Iraqi people who he interacted with were wonderful and glad that (the Marines) were there, which made it all worthwhile for him," said Loveberry-Ross. "He loved the military. He enjoyed it and I know he told his dad he loved what he was doing and was having a lot of fun."

Ellsworth lived in Fairplay most of his time in Colorado, but commuted to Summit High School in 2001 and 2002 for his sophomore and junior years.

Loveberry-Ross said the family had lived in Dillon for a short time when they first moved to Summit County and her son chose to continue going to Summit after they relocated to Park County.

Football coach Rob Royer said Ellsworth was well-liked student. Ellsworth wrestled and played football.

"He was the kind of funny kid who came to football and worked hard," said Royer, who was an assistant when Justin played. "I got along really well with him."

Ellsworth played defensive and offensive lines in 2001, but then decided to go back to Michigan to graduate high school where he had attended his freshman year, Royer said.

"He came in before he left and we had a real good talk. He said he was going back to Michigan and was going to join the Marines," Royer said.

Royer was visibly upset as he talked about Ellsworth's death.

"Today was bad for me. It's been real rough. The fact that (Justin) was rescuing civilians, it just brings the war real close to me," Royer said. "I have other friends over there and to give the ultimate sacrifice is real tough."

Frisco resident Jim Wheeler remembered Ellsworth fondly as "just one of the kids" who played on the football team with his sons.

"He went from a very typical high school teenager and when I saw him a few months ago, he had just gone from that teenager ... to just an incredible young man," Wheeler said.

Ellsworth was a member of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force's Combat Service Support Battalion, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif. His platoon built sea huts and cement bunkers and completed other construction projects, according to Ellsworth's father, who was interviewed by the Associated Press.

Ellsworth had four brothers and two sisters. A memorial service will be held in Summit County sometime in early December, Loveberry-Ross said.

Park County correspondent Linda Balough contributed to this story.

Last modified date and time: 01/17/2005 8:44