'He built people up': Ardmore family remembers fallen son, 1st. Lt. Jacob A. Mason
On August 25, 1st Lt. Jacob A. Mason, aged 25, died while participating in an assessment to enter into Army Ranger School in Ft. Stewart, Ga. Mason was stationed at Ft. Carson, Colo. where he served in the S-3 Operations section of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Attack and was deployed in Operation Inherent Resolve from June 2020 to March 2021.
Mason's awards include the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with Combat Device, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal with two bronze service stars, the Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Air Assault Badge.
Mason was born in Ardmore on October 1, 1995, and moved with his family overseas as an infant due to his father's work in the petroleum industry. The family returned to the United States for a few years during Mason's elementary school days and then moved to Aberdeen, Scotland where Mason spent the majority of his formative years. During his senior year, the family returned to Ardmore and Mason graduated from High School from Plainview in 2014.
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After graduation Mason went on to Southern Methodist University where he received a Bachelor of Science Degree and a Master's of Science in Engineering Management. While at SMU he also participated in ARMY ROTC Training at the University of Texas at Arlington.
His mother, Lisa Mason, said his career in the military and his education were part of his plan to one day be the President of the United States.
"He always said he wanted to become the youngest president in United States history," Mrs. Mason said. "So he wanted to understand the military and to help others. The military was also his way of serving his country, being an American, and protecting others. He loved the Army. He loved America."
His political ambitions started early in life, and during his sophomore year of high school, Mason attended the Global Youth Leadership Conference with other students from around the world. The other students at the event recognized his leadership qualities and elected him to be Secretary General of the United Nations for the conference.
Mason also tried to meet and speak with as many politicians and leaders as possible so he could take notes about the conversation to look back on once he achieved his presidential aspirations. His father, Rick Mason, shared the story about how his son was able to meet former-president George W. Bush one day on the SMU campus.
"He and three other guys had just got back from ROTC in Arlington and were walking across campus in their fatigues," Mr. Mason said. "That day George W. Bush happened to be on campus, and my son saw him in the distance and said 'let's go talk to the president.' So he and the three other cadets take off running towards the former president. Then Bush's protection service told them to back up. They told them they were not going to get close to the president.
"Then George W. Bush asked his protection if they noticed what the guys were wearing, and he told them to let them through. He stopped and took the time to visit with them and took pictures."
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While Mason's family always knew him to be extremely, kind, generous and caring, his younger sister, Jessica Mason, said they had no idea of the impact he made on so many other until after his death when a friend began a private Facebook group for those who knew him personally to share their memories.
"We're a very close family, but Jacob was a very humble person," Jessica said. "He would never come home and say I helped so-and-so today. Once we started reading through the posts, we saw story after story about how he saved someone's career, helped them get through a tough class, or helped them through difficult times."
"He built people up to be the best they that could be, and so many have said that they owed their careers to him because he was pushing them to keep coming back and showing up," Mrs. Mason said. "He touched a lot of them by bringing them to the Lord. He spread the love of God everywhere."
His father said Mason's helpful nature shone through even on the final day of his life. This information comes from a letter sent by the Major General of the Ft. Stewart base where Mason lost his life. While the details of the incident are under investigation, the letter gave information about the kind of soldier — and human being — Mason was.
"The letter said he (Mason) had only been there for a five hours, but it was like he'd been there his whole life. That's the kind of impact he had," Mr. Msson said. "That last day was the biggest in his life because he was there to take an assessment to find out if he had what it takes to qualify for the Army Ranger School. Part of the course is to complete a run, and he completed his then looked around to see there were two guys who were not finished yet. So he ran back down the course, found them and said were going to finish this. I'll pace you and talk you through it. It's no problem."
One of those two soldiers later helped try to save Mason's life by performing CPR. Another soldier told the Master Sergeant that he would have followed Mason anywhere.
"The letter said there is no place in the serious incident report to put this but there are a few things you need to know," Mr. Mason said. "He would have definitely made Ranger. He was a good soldier, a fine officer, and would have been an extraordinary Ranger. His final quote was that this is what makes me proud to wear the uniform."
Mr. Mason said he is moved by how his son continues to touch others even after his death.
"They flew him in to Oklahoma City on a Delta flight from Atlanta, and I didn't know this until I got there, but when a fallen soldier comes in, they shut down the whole airport," Mr. Mason said. "Of course I'm only looking at my son's casket draped in the flag coming off the plane, but after a minute I looked around and every Delta ground person was there. Also the windows at the the front of the boarding lounge are lined with people looking out. Regardless of what their political views, they all stopped what they were doing to welcome him home."
Mr. Mason said his family is also extremely grateful for the support they have received from the Ardmore community.
"Before we got back from Oklahoma City, all of these people had come together on social media and got the police and the fire department involved," Mr. Mason said. "As we came into town the fire department had a truck with the full extension ladder out and a big flag above it. Then when we got to the funeral home they had already put out all of these flags and a sign that said Jacob will always be our hero.
"These are people who didn't even know Jacob personally but somebody had got it started and the next thing they knew it had blown up. I would say there were 300 people out there on a hot Friday afternoon waiting for us to arrive."
Funeral services for 1st Lt. Jacob Aaron Mason will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, September 13 at The Church of Christ on Merrick Drive.