Aug. 29, 2006

Courant Staff Writer

MILFORD -- The photos on the coffee table are
like puzzle pieces, a thick stack of 4-by-6-inch
hints about the Jordan Pierson his family couldn't

There's one that shows the street that runs past the
main cemetery in Fallujah, Iraq. Next, the view
from the rooftop guard post on the edge of the
compound where Cpl. Pierson was becoming a
battle-hardened Marine. And dozens more, freezing
the dusty faces of Plainville's Charlie Company
against the monochromatic back drop of Fallujah.

Somewhere within these images is the man and boy
his family knew, whose body is expected to arrive
today on U.S. soil, a middle step in Pierson's long
journey home.

In the living room of his family's house in Milford,
the wiry corporal's dress uniform hangs from a
door. It had awaited his return, maybe in late
Corps ball. He had asked that it be ready for him,
just as he had been planning his University of
Connecticut class load. Pierson, 21, was looking to
get his life together after seven months at war.

On Friday, the news that he had been shot to death
on a foot patrol in Fallujah broke this home open
like an ant hill, leaving his family still hurrying
purposelessly from room to room on Sunday,
powerless to repair the breach.

There is food to eat -- so much that neighbors are
making space in their refrigerators. People keep
bringing it, their offering for the impenetrable grief
that is settling in. Aunts, friends, his mother and
grandmother sit around the dining table exercising
their memories, stamping their versions of Jordan's
unruly youth into the family record.

Aunt Roberta Jones: ``He said, `I'm joining the
Marines,' and I said, `Oh, Jordan, please don't.'''
Join a safer branch of the military, she pleaded. But
he couldn't be talked out of it.

Mother Beverley Pierson: Jordan sent $300 home
every month for the mortgage, without being asked
to do it.

Family friend Gloria Amendola: When he got his
first car, the Honda, he forgot to set the emergency
brake, and it rolled over some newly planted

Then another knock on the door. ``This is how it's
been since we heard,'' Beverley Pierson says.
People keep coming. They say the same things and
hug Beverley and Jordan's father, Eric.

Among the visitors is a dress-uniformed Marine,
Lt. Col. Gerald Larghe, commander of the Plainville
center where the reservists of Charlie Company,
1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, are based.
He's the one who knocked on Friday, delivered the
sparse news of Jordan's end.

Larghe stands silently behind the family as they
watch their television in the evening, seeing
themselves on the news making a statement in
front of reporters and cameras. Under the eyes of
police sentries, the journalists had gathered thick
on the lawn in front of the modest former beach
house, a few hundred yards from Long Island
Sound. Now the reports of the family's loss
paraded on channel after channel, switched in quick
succession, under photos of Jordan atop the

Reminders of him are everywhere. A big picture of
his serious face under the dress hat of a freshly
minted Marine. One at last year's Marine ball, his
arms around a date. And in his room -- a detached
garage-turned-apartment -- the artifacts of his daily
world. A poster hangs above his bed, a photo of
Marines paired with some weighty words:
``Honor'' and ``Country.''

His dad sits on a couch in Jordan's room, next to
his other son, 11-year-old Ethan, remembering the
``skinny kid'' who pumped iron and trained to meet
the physical requirements for enlistment. ``He
worked on building up his strength,'' Eric Pierson
says. He was so determined.

Ethan chatters on about Jordan, not yet reflecting
the gravity here.

Friends of Jordan wander the house and yard, eyes
red, their features hanging lifeless from their faces.
They went to high school with him at Joseph A.
Foran High in Milford. Some go further back.
Jordan was a haven for many, they said, a person
who sheltered his friends.

Already, his family reaches for meaning. Maybe
the park behind their property can become Jordan
C. Pierson Memorial Park. Beverley is explicit
when she says her son's service in Iraq had worth,
even if he didn't talk much with her about it.

She says it's important that people realize that her
boy died for a reason. She needed to keep that in
her mind in recent months, because she says she
had a bad feeling. After he was wounded by a
grenade in May and was awarded a Purple Heart,
the feeling deepened: She might not be seeing him

But she will. He'll land at Bradley International
Airport soon. His family will meet a casket there.
A flag will be draped over it -- another piece for
their puzzle.