Mountain Home airman found dead in Boise

Idaho StatesmanJuly 23, 2013 

Erik Jorgensen plays with a dog while serving in the U.S. Army.


Hours after a member of the Idaho National Guard was tentatively identified as the man who killed himself outside the Guard's training complex south of Boise, an airman from Mountain Home Air Force Base was found dead Monday in his car in Boise.

Like Pfc. Erik Jorgensen, 26, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson believes the coroner will find this man also killed himself. The news, he said, makes him sad.

"We've had two military deaths in the last 72 hours," Masterson said. "It really brings the seriousness of the matter of depression into focus."

The airman has not been publicly identified, pending notification of next of kin. The news hit the air base hard, said Col. Chris Short, commander of the 366th Fighter Wing.

"We lost a valued member of the Gunfighter family," Short said. "This is a tragic event and our hearts go out to his family, friends and coworkers during this difficult time.”

Earlier Tuesday, Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg said Jorgensen, a member of the National Guard since August 2011, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

At the time of his death, Jorgensen was not in uniform and was not taking part in training exercises at the Orchard Complex, Guard spokesman Col. Tim Marsano said.

“It is a sad day for all of us in the Idaho Army National Guard,” said Brig. Gen. John Goodale, the Idaho Army National Guard commander. “We have lost one of our own, and today our thoughts and prayers are with the Jorgensen family.”

Positive identification has not been made because of extensive decomposition of the body, Sonnenberg said. Soldiers training along the west side of the 140,000-acre complex noticed a white Dodge Ram pickup had been parked near Range 29 for a day before the body was discovered Monday evening. It matched the description of the pickup provided by his family.

Jorgensen, who previously lived in Half Moon Bay, Calif., joined the U.S. Army in 2007 and was deployed to Afghanistan from October 2009 to September 2010, Marsano said.

Jorgensen was reported missing about 11 p.m. Thursday, according to a Facebook page set up by his family to try to locate him. His family reported Jorgensen suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and might be suicidal.

Two members of Jorgensen's unit searched for the missing man Friday at fishing and hiking spots he frequently visited. They did not locate any sign of him, Marsano said.

The members aborted their search Saturday when told Jorgensen was armed. The guard pulled those members back, for safety reasons, after consulting with the Boise Police Department and a guard staff psychologist, Marsano said.

A non-commissioned officer has been assigned by the guard to assist Jorgensen's family.

Cindy Crow, Jorgensen's mother, Monday posted a note on a Facebook page set up to try and locate her son acknowledging his death and asking God to save all other soldiers from the pain of war and to bring them home safely to their families.

"It is with the greatest sadness of our life to have to share that our sweet boy spread his wings and flew to God's protective arms, where the sun always shines and there is no pain," Crow wrote. "God keep my baby protected until we meet again."

Army Sgt. Bryan Heidkamp, who served with Jorgensen at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., and deployed with him to Afghanistan, mourned the loss of his friend.

"I wish I could have been there with him and talked with him," Heidkamp said by phone from his home in Lawton, Okla., where he's stationed at Fort Sill. "He had the biggest heart and he was everyone's friend."

Heidkamp said he and Jorgensen were part of a group that went out daily looking for improvised explosive devices buried under roads and other locations. The danger of an exploding bomb meant there was always tension. Four soldiers they served with died during that deployment, said Heidkamp, who returned to the United States earlier this year following a second deployment.

Jorgensen's death, Heidkamp said, made him think of other friends that may be experiencing the same kind of depression that caused Jorgensen to take his life.

"It makes me realize how important it is to keep contact with your friends. You never know when something might happen," he said.

John Sowell: 377-6423


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