• 66°

Sgt. Allen’s life, sacrifice serves as inspiration

When I received word of Justin’s tragic death in Afghanistan, I spent a lot of time reflecting on his life and accomplishments.

I believe I speak for everyone who knew him when I say that it was an honor and an inspiration to have known him.

As a junior at Dawson-Bryant High School in the fall of 2004 and the beginning of Justin’s senior year, I reflect back on those days of the many qualities that made up for his lack of size with his heart, grit and determination to meet goals he set for himself.

Anyone who played football along beside him on Friday nights will never fail to mention his work ethic or ability to inspire admiration with his play.

His bond with his teammates was unbreakable.

Although he was a far superior athlete and worker than most of us, he never hesitated to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed to be spotted when lifting weights or just needed encouragement.

He had every opportunity (and in many cases, good reason) to make fun of people who were less fit or just lazier than he was, but I never heard him belittle anyone, ever.

After that school year, I began taking classes at Ohio University Southern and I got to talk to him at various times. He told me he had enlisted in the U.S. Army and would be leaving soon. Looking back now it was no surprise. Justin had a heart that was bigger than life and he had set it on another goal that he was determined to achieve and which he ultimately achieved to a heroic degree.

I was shocked to learn of his passing, but I am convinced that his life and heroic death will serve as inspiration to his peers as well as many young people.

In a day when many of our community’s young men and women are indulging in alcohol, drugs, and other self-destructive behavior, my prayer is that Justin’s legacy will inspire many people to examine their lives and live with a sense of higher purpose that only God can give.

Sgt. Allen will be remembered as a football player to some, a classmate, a friend, an inspiration and now an American hero to all who knew him.

Cole Hillier

Coal Grove