Patricia Elsner may have lived in Taylor County for only the past couple of months, but that hasn’t stopped the outpouring of support her family has seen after the death of her son, John Dion, last week in Afghanistan.
Dion, 19, a U.S. Army private with the 4th Infantry Brigade based in Fort Carson, Colo., died Jan. 3 along with two other soldiers after the detonation of an improvised explosive device.
Elsner moved to Reynolds from Shattuck, Okla., in November to help take care of members of her husband’s family who live there. Despite being new to the area, her family has received support not only from people in Taylor County, but also from surrounding communities, she said.
“We’re real thankful for the community support,” she said.
Though Dion didn’t come from a military background, he and some of his high school friends decided to join the military.
“I was against it,” Elsner said Monday. “But I knew the boy. He wants to help people. He was always very protectful. I knew I wasn’t going to dissuade him. It was his decision, and I was respectful of his decision.”
During his brief time in Afghanistan — just five weeks — he was one of two people to be made an advance scout for his unit. More than 100 people tried out for the spot, his mother said.
Dion was engaged to Adi Vielma, whom he met in Colorado Springs. They planned to marry after he returned in June, Elsner said.
Elsner said Dion was a talented athlete. He played running back in high school in Oklahoma, helping his team to two eight-man state football titles. He also played baseball for his school. Dion planned to go into dentistry after his military service was complete, she said.
The family will have a visitation 4-8 p.m. Thursday and 9-11 a.m. Friday at Bentley-Montford Mortuary in Butler. Dion will be buried at Andersonville National Cemetery at 3 p.m. Saturday, following a 1 p.m. service at Taylor Mills Baptist Church.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.