Spc. Jared Plunk flies a jet in his duties as an infantryman for the 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Ky., prior to his death earlier this year. The soldier will be honored at halftime of this Friday’s Beaver-Turpin football game. Courtesy photo
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
On June 25, a mounted patrol came under small arms and rocket-propelled-grenade fire in the Afghanistan province of Konar. Spc. Jared Plunk lost his life in that attack at the age of 27. Now, staff and students of the school he graduated from have found a way to honor his memory.
Plunk played football for the Turpin Cardinals, graduating in 2001, and at halftime of this week’s Beaver-Turpin football game, the family of the soldier will be introduced to the crowd.
Turpin High School Principal Gary Wallace said as part of the ceremony, the football team decided to sign a helmet and give it to the family. District officials will also honor Plunk’s memory with a plaque which will be hung in the entrance of THS.
“We are going to try to get one of his Turpin pictures and one of his Army pictures and put it in front of our kids so they can always see it,” Wallace said.
Also at the halftime ceremony, roses will be presented to all of the women in the Plunk family, and the family will likewise be given three jerseys with Jared’s number.
“We’re going to distribute those within the family there probably to his mother, his wife and his brother or his grandpa,” Wallace said.
“He was number 71. We’ve still got three old 71 jerseys. We’re going to make sure they all have that.”
Turpin High gives out its annual sports awards at the end of each year, and Plunk’s memory will also be respected there, Wallace said.
“We give what we call a Fighting Heart award,” he said. “We are going to rename that after him. It’s going to be called the Jared Plunk Fighting Heart award. That always goes to our hardest working kid, our kid that has a little more heart than everybody else.”
Wallace said the halftime ceremony is connected with Veterans Day, and this is why district officials decided to have it at that time. Plunk’s brother, Justin, also served in the military, and Wallace said the school district would like to honor all veterans with the ceremony.
“We may try to bring all the veterans out on the field to honor them as well, but our main emphasis after that will be Jared and the Plunk family,” he said.
Wallace said Plunk, who served as an infantryman in the First Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, First Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky., was a hard working kid.
Wallace, a first-year principal at THS, was a teacher when Plunk was a student at Turpin.
“He wasn’t the smartest kid we ever had,” he said. “He wasn’t the best athlete we ever had, but he was the one who was going to do his part to help the team. He did what he needed to around the school academic-wise. He was just an overall good kid. He was never in trouble. Just a hard working kid. He lived life the right way and decided to serve our country and paid the ultimate price. To me, it’s just something that has to be honored.”
In football, Plunk played offensive and defensive lineman on some of Turpin’s best teams, according to Wallace.
“I don’t recall him starting too many games, but he was always there,” he said. “He would fill in some. He was never one to gripe about playing time. He just did his part and did whatever he needed to do for the team.”
Wallace said the halftime ceremony is a work in progress.
“It’s around the community,” he said. “We’re in a small school, so once five people know, it’s not going to take but a couple hours for the whole team to know. They know what we’re up to now.”
Wallace, who coached basketball at Turpin during Jared’s school days, said he has talked to the Plunk family about the ceremony, particularly Justin.
“I coached Justin. I didn’t coach Jared. Jared didn’t play basketball,” Wallace said. “I know Justin real well. I’ve been calling him to figure out who’s coming and what we’re doing. They’re not surprised, and they feel comfortable with what’s happening.”
Wallace said many people, especially family members, are making a special trip to Turpin for the halftime observance.
“They’re proud of Jared,” he said. “This is a tight-knit community here. Everybody here is proud of him. Any teacher and our staff and any community member, they all know who Jared was and what he did.”
Wallace said some of the younger kids at Turpin may not know of Plunk’s accomplishments, but he said having the plaque in the school’s hallways will let the students know about him.
“That’s really what we’re going after,” he said. “Some of our high schoolers knew him. The younger ones really didn’t know Jared. They know of the Plunks, but not Jared.”
Wallace said there were some different ideas on how to honor Jared.
“We decided this was the best and just do everything we can for the family and make sure they’re happy with what we do and everything goes smooth,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is dishonor him. We want to lift him up and make sure everybody understands exactly what we’re doing.”