Iraq War

A Virginia Family Man's Sacrifice

By Kristen Mack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sgt. Jesse A. Ault rejoined the National Guard to take the place of his wife, Betsy, on a deployment to Baghdad.

He called home to Dublin, Va., every day he was in Iraq, including his last. Ault died Wednesday in Baghdad of wounds suffered in Tunnis, Iraq, when his vehicle encountered a makeshift bomb, the military said. Ault, 28, was assigned to the Roanoke-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion.

"When he was not in uniform, he was 100 percent family. That was what meant the most," Betsy Ault said yesterday in Pulaski County, according to a transcript provided by the National Guard. "When he put on his uniform, he believed that he had a responsibility to his guys. He took his job seriously. He considered himself a leader and a protector."

Ron Ault said yesterday from Ohio that his son Jesse grew up in Tyler County, W.Va., and joined the Army before high school graduation. After four years of active duty, he moved to Virginia and joined the National Guard.

Jesse Ault met his future wife during summer training camp in 2002. "One day, while standing in line, I turned to him and said, 'When are you ever going to ask me out on a date . . . alone?' " Betsy Ault said.

They were dating by the time their units were combined and deployed in 2004 to Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq. During a five-day pass home for Christmas, Jesse met and bonded with her son Nathan.

When they got back from Iraq, Jesse told Betsy that he wanted to start a family. They got married on the front steps of her father's house. Soon after, their son, Adam, was born. He's now 15 months old.

In early 2007, Betsy was alerted that she would be redeployed to Iraq.

"Her number came up to go back for another tour," Ron Ault said. "At the time, they were trying to get pregnant. [Jesse] thought the best thing for him to do for his family was reenlist. He went back in her place."

The day he landed in Kuwait, Betsy found out she was pregnant. Ault was allowed emergency leave to go home for the birth of their daughter, Rachel. She is 4 months old.

The Wednesday call home to his family in Dublin wasn't the only one Ault made that day. He also called his dad twice to say happy birthday. "When I come home, I received a message," Ron Ault said. "He said he'd call me the next day, too. I never received a call."

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, military personnel arrived at Ron Ault's door.

"I didn't want to open it. They come in and I just knew," he said. "Yesterday, I was numb. Today, I am angry."

Staff writer Mark Berman contributed to this report.

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