HOULTON, Maine — A U.S. Marine who was a 2003 graduate of Greater Houlton Christian Academy has been killed in Afghanistan, Department of Defense officials confirmed Wednesday.
First Lt. James Zimmerman, 25, attended the private pre-kindergarten through grade 12 Christian school serving northern Maine and western New Brunswick throughout his school years.
Military officials said Zimmerman died Tuesday while conducting combat operations in Helmand province. He was based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
News of Zimmerman’s death began circulating around Houlton, where the school is located, on Wednesday morning. Teachers and students at the school said the family had been notified on Tuesday.
Students who asked not to be identified said Wednesday evening they were told of Zimmerman’s death shortly after the school day began. Teachers were told before the start of the school day.
Zimmerman’s father, Tom Zimmerman, is the assistant head of the school. His mother, Jane, is a nurse with Visiting Nurses of Aroostook and works with music students at the school. The couple lives in Smyrna Mills.
James Zimmerman’s sister Meagan Foster is a fifth-grade teacher at Greater Houlton Christian Academy. His brother-in-law Nathan Foster teaches fourth grade at the school. He also has a brother, Christian Zimmerman.
Attempts to reach family members were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Wayne Watson, a family friend who also has been involved with Greater Houlton Christian Academy, said Wednesday evening that Zimmerman was friends with his two daughters. Both of the young women attended the school. He said he believed it was the 25-year-old’s first tour in Afghanistan.
“All he ever wanted to do was to be in the military and be a Marine,” he said. “He was a great kid, just a real nice young man that everyone enjoyed being around.”
Watson said Zimmerman started taking steps to join the military in high school after talking at length with a local military veteran.
“He believed it was his calling,” he said. “James was so outgoing and likeable; he had a great sense of humor. He also was very athletic and would take on any challenge that was put to him. We all knew that he would accomplish any goal that he set out to do.”
In addition to pursuing his goal of being a Marine, Zimmerman also constantly took steps “to make his family proud,” Watson said.
“He wanted to make them proud, and he did,” he said. “The price he paid was the ultimate price that anyone could give to this country. Everyone at the school is just so upset over this. It really impacts people when it hits home like this, in such a small town. His death hits very close to home.”
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.