SMSGT JOSEPH T. WALKER (“SARGE”)
10 SEPTEMBER 1925 - 8 SEPTEMBER 2001
Burial Location: SECTION RR SITE 2104
SMSgt Joseph T. Walker was the original “Sarge” of the Missouri 81st AFJROTC, having founded the unit in 1972. He remained a full-time ASI until 1988 when he retired, but he remained active with the JROTC Drill Team and coached them on a voluntary basis for many years afterwards.
Sarge was always looking out for cadets he could help achieve their dreams and goals. As someone who grew up in a foster home from the time he was three years old until he was fourteen, Sarge knew the importance of having a good mentor and he was that to the cadets of the MO81st. Because of his leadership, cadets were able to participate in almost eight different drill meets every year, including the drill meet in Daytona Beach. Sarge established the tradition of traveling to Florida every November in order to compete in the drill competition. As passionate marathon runner, Sarge was also responsible for creating the one mile run on Daytona Beach which cadets participated in right before boarding the school bus and traveling 14+ hours back to St. Louis where they were expected to report to class the next day.
Sarge passed away peacefully at his home on 8 September 2001 leaving behind his beloved wife, Olive, and their five adult children. He was laid to rest on 11 September, the morning of the 9/11 attacks.
14 July 1983 - 1 November 2004
Burial Location: Holy Cross Cemetery
Ryan Trigg grew up in Ellisville, MO, the son of Rebecca and John and brother of Tara. Raised in a single parent home, Ryan was the man of the house and from an early age had many responsibilities such as yard work, patching holes in the siding and patching squirrels from the attic. He paired these jobs with his nature to make everything fun and would do little things like write your name in the rock garden or spell out "MOM" in the grass with tracks from the lawn mower - anything to bring a smile and make you happy.
Ryan had an extraordinary maturity and earnestness of purpose. He was able to take a job no one else wanted and turn it into something everyone wanted to be a part of, like when he accepted the job of wearing a pooh costume for an event - something all his peers avoided for fear of being laughed at. Ryan asked to wear the costume and spent the whole day hugging kids, smiling for pictures and making people laugh. He had a heart that was honest and pure, and was everyone's friends and everyone was his.
Education and learning were important to Ryan. His dream was to become a US Marine and serve his beloved country and later teach US History after retiring from the military. He hoped to have a family of his own one day, complete with a dog named Liberty.
Ryan Begun his journey by entering the MO81st AFJROTC as a freshman. Upon graduating in 2002, He entered the Marines and after Basic began his course work at southwest Missouri State University. During his first semester he had a presentation due and chose to write about the power of patriotism and our national pride. Ryan felt the presentation would have more impact if he was wearing his Marine Corps Dress Blues and traveled home the night of October 29 2004 to pick his uniform, even though his mom offered to bring it. He worried she might miss something, but she said no one would know. "I would know", he responded. That is who Ryan was. he cared about the details, the people, and the responsibilities. That evening, Ryan's car left the road in a single car fatal accident
As his friends and family came to terms with losing him, they established the "Class of 2002 Memorial Scholarship Fund" as a way for Ryan to pass on his legacy of patriotism and education to a JROTC cadet each year.
PV2 Paul Varner
5 July 1984 - 29 April 2005
Burial Location: Jefferson Barracks, SECTION N SITE 52
PV2 Paul Varner was known in the halls of Lafayette High School to have a great personality and to be extremely smart. He was very involved in multiple clubs at LHS and was an active member of the MO81 AFJROTC unit all four years of high school.
Paul was the son of Don and Linda Varner and brother to Adam, Rachal and Kristina. Born in Houston, Texas, he lived there until the age of 12, at which point his family relocated to Wildwood, Missouri.
Upon arriving in Missouri, Paul and his family attended the Ellisville United Methodist Church where he was active in the Youth Choir and Youth Group. A short time later, Paul entered Lafayette High School where he joined the MO81st and remained a cadet in the unit throughout his high school years. During his junior year, Paul joined the JROTC Competition Color Guard team. He also became involved in other activities at Lafayette including the Latin Club and wrestling. He was an active member of the Latin Club for four years and wrestled until the end of his junior year. Paul was also involved in football, the Thespians (a popular theatre group), B.A.S.I.C. Club, and Computer Club. The latter two echoed to his future Army career
Upon graduating in the spring of 2003, Paul enlisted to serve his country in the United States Army as a Communications Officer. Private Second Class Varner was stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana when the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division was activated on 19 January 2005. Nicknamed "The Patriot Brigade" it originally included just a few hundred Soldiers. However, the Brigade's leadership immediately set to work to rapidly build combat power and capabilities in anticipation of deploying to support the Global War on Terror. In the midst of preparing for deployment, PV2 Varner was participating in a live-fire training exercise at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas when he was accidentally shot and killed.
28 August 1986 - 5 July 2005
Burial Location: Jefferson Barracks, SECTION N SITE 45
The year was 2002 when Jose and Rowena Navarro had just moved their family to Wildwood, MO following the retirement of Jose from the United States Navy. Daniel was one of three sons born to Jose and Rowena; the younger brother of Peter and the older brother of Kevin. His family had enjoyed living in many countries around the world, but they were anxious to now put down roots in Missouri.
Like his brother, Daniel Navarro was a cadet in the MO81st and loved his country. Though he participated in Drill Team, including taking first place with his brother in Dual Armed Exhibition, Daniel did not join the military immediately after leaving high school. While his brother was serving in Iraq, Daniel was involved in a motor vehicle accident in Washington State and died. Daniel was 18 years old.
During his short time at Lafayette, Daniel was well-known to be soft spoken, determined and respectful. Any response from Daniel was sure to be in true military-style of "Yes, Sir" or "No, Sir". Daniel was famous for addressing his military instructors by their full rank instead of a nickname. He felt the manner in which he addressed the SASI and ASI showed his great respect for them and their sacrifice and service to the United States of America.
Daniel was the epitome of a cadet. He exhibited the core values of "Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do" in every aspect of his life. Because of his acute attention to detail, Daniel was always the most impeccably dressed cadet whether in or out of uniform. Like everyone else in his family, Daniel was a fierce patriot who loved his country deeply. He would have most likely followed his brother's footsteps to enlist in the United States Army.
Daniel was laid to rest at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Six months later, his brother, Peter, was buried beside him.
Specialist Peter Joseph Navarro
5 February 1985 - 13 December 2005
Burial Location: Jefferson Barracks, SECTION N SITE 44
Specialist Navarro was born into a military family and decided to join the military shortly after graduating from Lafayette High School. Two years later, Pete came home from Iraq on a two week leave to bury his younger brother, Daniel, after he died suddenly in a motor vehicle accident. After the funeral, his mother asked him not to return to Iraq, but Pete responded, "Mom, they would be a man short. They need me there.”
On 13 December, 2005, Pete and a group of soldiers were on patrol in Taji, Iraq as they prepared Baghdad for the upcoming elections. Pete usually drove a tank, but on this day he was in a Humvee when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was killed along with three other soldiers just one month before the scheduled end of his deployment in Iraq. Ten days later Pete was laid to rest at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. People lined the streets to say goodbye, waving flags to show support to the Navarro family including Pete's 14 year old brother, Kevin. The Army presented his parents with three metals for Pete: the Good Conduct Medal, the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
On 19 April 2013, the Ballwin Post Office was named in recognition of his service and sacrifice. It was the first time a post office building in the Gateway District of the U.S. Postal Service was named in honor of a soldier. Today a part of Peter's legacy continues through the Peter Navarro Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded each spring at the Dining Out of the MO81st AFJROTC.
8 April 2000-August 2016
Burial Location: Laurel Hill Cemetery
Long before Lawrence Strawbridge joined the MO81st, he lived om St. Louis city and was part of the St. Louis Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC) program. His participation in VICC began in the first grade when he began his academics with the Rockwood School District. One of the first things he did was become fast friends with David Golder. The two became like brothers and soon their families became close friends. Though Lawrence was shy at first, he quickly showed his fun and outgoing personality as he got to know people. Lawrence was always kind, loving and helpful to those around him.
In 2014, Lawrence entered Lafayette High School as a freshmen and joined the Missouri 81st Air Force Junior ROTC program. He loved being in the unit and was exited to be apart of the annual trip to Florida. It was during that trip when Lawrence saw the ocean for the first time and watched the sun rise on the beach each morning. A true gentleman, when the wind kicked up on a JROTC beach party, Lawrence stopped his own activities and shielded his fellow cadets from the blowing sand. A simple act, but it was his true character to be more concerned for the welfare of others than for himself.
In August of 2016, Lawrence and his mother, Tyra Shannon, passed away at the hands of a family member suffering from mental illness. Their deaths sent sock waves throughout the school. Because of the love his Rockwood family had for him, students and friends quickly sought to memorialize Lawrence.
Today, the Lawrence Strawbridge Foundation is an active nonprofit run by the Golder and Dees families. With the help of the Rockwood School District, the foundation works with the community to provide college scholarships, "back to school" backpacks and financial support to St. Louis children who, like Lawrence, find themselves being educated far from their homes. The MO81st family assists the selling of purple "#rememberhim" bracelets. A fitting memorial to a young man who continues to care for others.