Words alone cannot ease the grief of the family and friends of James R. Layton of Riverbank, a Navy medic killed in Afghanistan last week. But as a community, we can and should do what was done Tuesday — show our sincerest respect.
Hundreds of people stood along the route taken by the hearse carrying Layton's body from Modesto Airport to the Escalon funeral home. Most didn't know James or his family, but they did recognize his heroism.
Layton, a petty officer third class, was at the front of a military action not as a combat soldier but as a medical corpsman. He was tending to a Marine lieutenant when the ambush occurred that killed them both and two other Marines.
Layton had been wounded two days earlier but was back in the field Sept. 8, the day of his death. As his father noted, many would have used the first incident as an excuse to get to safety.
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Layton's heroic act also was noted by many who have left comments in the online guest book on modbee.com. One of the most poignant was posted by an uncle of the Marine that Layton was treating.
Glenn Gibson of Virginia Beach, Va., wrote: "My nephew, Lt. Mike Johnson, was the Marine whose life James was trying to save in Afghanistan when they were both killed serving our country. James' selflessness speaks volumes about the type of man he clearly demonstrated he was.
"On behalf of the Johnson and Chase families, thank you for James' heroic actions that day. We share your loss. God be with us."
James Layton is the 28th member of the military from our region who has died in the line of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. We hope their families know that their communities salute and value their sacrifice.