|Lance Corporal Jason C. Redifer was on his final mission in Iraq early Monday when a roadside bomb killed him just south of Baghdad.
The 19-year-old Marine was to return to his Stuarts Draft home next week, where his mother, Rhonda Winfield, and family awaited him.
“He was my best friend,” she said Tuesday night. “He would have given his life for any of his friends, and it’s backed by the fact that he just died for people he didn’t even know.”
Redifer was among three Marines killed during fighting Monday in Iraq’s Babil Province, the Pentagon said. The two other Marines were from New Jersey and Illinois.
His mother spoke with him by telephone roughly two hours before he died. She was devastated to return home from work that afternoon to find a pair of Marines at her doorstep.
“When there’s been an injury or something, they just call you,” she said Tuesday.
“I just looked at them and told them not to give me any bad news, and they both dropped their heads.”
Redifer worked three jobs to afford a high school education at Stuart Hall, a private school in Staunton where he graduated in 2003. He joined the Marines days after graduating.
Former classmates, teachers and other staff at Stuart Hall mourned Redifer’s death Tuesday.
Carol Shriver, the director of studies, the chaplain and a teacher of philosophy and religion at Stuart Hall, said Redifer decided to enter the military because of the 9/11 attacks.
“Jason made a conscientious decision to serve his country,’’ she said. “He has two younger brothers. He wanted the world to be safe for them. If he thought he could make it a better world for his younger brothers, he would do that for them.”
Connie Davis, the Stuart Hall school nurse, recalls Redifer as a student fiercely determined to get his education. One of his jobs involved cleaning chicken coops.
“He worked three part-time jobs to pay his tuition because he valued his education,’’ Davis said, adding that he rose at 5 a.m. to begin his long days.
“He was a young man of such character, who had such love for his mother and three brothers,” Davis said. “Any one of us would have been proud to call him our son.”
Davis said Redifer was proud to be a Marine and to serve his country.
“We are all better for knowing him. He was just a treasure of a human being,’’ she said.
Redifer died from a bomb blast that ripped his Humvee, the military said.
Stuart Hall staff and students received an e-mail from Redifer as recent as Friday.
“Jason lived every minute of his life, and he would not want us to be sad,’’ Shriver said. “He lived life to the fullest. I miss him greatly.”
Redifer wanted a lifelong military career, said stepdad Scott.
Winfield, maybe studying law in college and joining the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
In the short term, Redifer “wanted to ride his horse” as soon as he returned home.
“He was pleased to be there, and he was proud to be doing what he was doing,” Scott Winfield said.