HOULTON, Maine — First Lt. James Zimmerman, a U.S. Marine who was killed in Afghanistan on Nov. 2, will be laid to rest during a Veterans Day funeral in Houlton on Thursday.
Officials in the southern Aroostook County town of Smyrna, where the 25-year-old grew up, are asking everyone to come out Tuesday to honor the sacrifice made by the 2003 graduate of Greater Houlton Christian Academy and 2008 graduate of the University of Maine.
Town Manager Candy Nevers said Monday that the town is asking everyone in Smyrna and the surrounding communities to come out in force and participate in a motorcade being organized to meet the hearse carrying Zimmerman’s body and follow it to a Houlton funeral home.
“We just wanted to do something to honor his service to our country and the sacrifice that he made,” Nevers said. “We want to show our support both for that sacrifice and for his family.”
Military officials said Zimmerman died while conducting combat operations in Helmand province in Afghanistan. He was based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. According to his obituary, Zimmerman enlisted in the Marines on March 21, 2003, when he was still in high school. It was the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He attended boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. He served in the Marine Corps Reserve, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Topsham, for one year and afterward was awarded a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship. He then attended UMaine.
Zimmerman grew up in Smyrna, the son of Tom and Jane Zimmerman, who still live in the community. Immediately after receiving word about funeral services, town officials began thinking of ways to honor the fallen serviceman.
According to Nevers, the hearse will arrive at the Interstate 95 offramp in Island Falls around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Motorists are asked to follow the hearse as it travels along Route 2 through the towns of Island Falls, Dyer Brook and Smyrna. Once the motorcade rolls through Smyrna, it will get back on Interstate 95 and travel to Houlton. Once in Houlton, the motorcade will travel down North Street and over the North Street Bridge. It then will travel up Military Street past the Houlton Police and Fire departments. The motorcade will turn and end at Bowers Funeral Home on Water Street.
Nevers said that people may join the motorcade at any point. Town officials are encouraging people who can’t be in the motorcade to line the streets of their communities to honor Zimmerman.
“We want people to be out there with flags or just out there to pay their respects,” she said. “We have already heard from various veterans groups who are planning acts of respect, and the response from the law enforcement community has been excellent. The state police, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department, the Houlton Police Department and various fire departments are planning to help us with this. We have been really pleased with the response.”
Nevers said that she has known both Zimmerman and his family for some time. Zimmerman married his college sweetheart, Lynel Winters, in June 2008, and most of his family is heavily involved in life at Greater Houlton Christian Academy. 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. James Zimmerman’s sister, Meagan Foster, is a fifth-grade teacher at the private, pre-kindergarten-grade-12 Christian school. His brother-in-law, Nathan Foster, teaches fourth grade at the facility. He has a brother, Christian Zimmerman, who lives in Texas.
Nevers said that James Zimmerman was “a wonderful human being.”
“I never saw him without a smile on his face,” she said Monday. “He has the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. His life was really about God, country and family. He grew up here in Smyrna and was very active in his church and with his church youth group. I am devastated by his death.”
By 2 p.m. Monday, 65 people had expressed condolences in an online guest book attached to Zimmerman’s obituary on the Bangor Daily News website.
Zimmerman is the fourth Aroostook County service member to die while serving in Afghanistan or Iraq since 2001. Army Spc. Dustin J. Harris, 21, of Patten died April 6, 2006, in Iraq. Marine Cpl. Dustin J. Libby, 22, of Presque Isle died Dec. 6, 2006, in Iraq. Army Sgt. Jonathan Allen Lowery, 38, of Houlton died Dec. 14, 2007, in Iraq.
Zimmerman’s funeral will take place at Houlton High School, 7 Bird St., on Thursday. Friends may call 9-10:45 a.m. and funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. A time of fellowship will be held after the services at County Road Baptist Church, New Limerick. Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery.