A Life Lived Full Throttle and Full Hearted

It was time for a nightly study break at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. Slice of pizza? Forget it! This one involved a moonlight off-road adventure in farm country.

Captain Shane Timothy Adcock, May 24th 1979 – October 11th, 2006

In talking to one of Shane’s best friends that he had known since middle school, he best described him as a lifeboat. And on this night, I learned why. Shane was not with Brian Jalbert and others on this night, he had another purpose; to go get them. Once their car got stuck in the mud with the catalytic converter throwing off sparks, this study break was turning into a potential all-nighter that had them walking through farm fields, going to houses where they could see a porch light, and asking local residents to use their phone around midnight. If only I could have talked to someone who answered the door that night when several muddy college students showed up on their doorstep. It had an early morning “Now, I got a story for you…” type newscast vibe from Farmville all over it. That would be shortly followed by parents’ phone calls to each of them. All of us reading this, as former kids ourselves, know the feeling of being on the receiving end of that conversation well.

A kind farmer offered their phone, and Brian without hesitation knew to call his best friend he had known since middle school and was his classmate at Longwood as well, Shane Adcock. To him, Shane was a lifeboat, and with no hesitation whatsoever, he came and got them all. The surfer kid from Virginia Beach he had grown up with would always drop whatever he was doing to help you out.

Shane and Brian Jalbert enjoying the view above and below the ocean in Hawaii

It amazes me constantly how much our lives can serve as ripple effects for others, having experienced the joy of being with them, and having their lives be part of hitting our own life shores. His friend Brian Jalbert’s oldest son is named Mattox Shane Jalbert, to honor his best friend. Several of Shane’s fraternity brothers from Longwood University have done the same, no matter whether girl or boy, and have given their children Shane as their middle name.

In honor of Memorial Day this year, and for years to come, I wanted to share the story of Army Captain Shane Adcock, who was killed in the line of duty supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on October 11, 2006. The story can be read here, however, I wanted to honor him by getting to know him through the people that did, his parents and friends.

Hang Loose Hawaii with Rob O’Connor, Shane, Kenney Harmon, and Brian Jalbert

If I could build a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor, I would want to go back and meet Shane. Thank you Maris and Vera, and his family and friends, for the privilege of allowing me to spend some time with you and knowing he treated everybody as a friend, also with him to write this story.

Looking towards the Sky with Grandad Papa

Hey, that is an F-14!

His love for the military started early in life, spending time with his Grandfather and Navy Veteran in his early years in Virginia Beach. He would look up at the sky and as the jets from Oceana Naval Air Station buzzed overhead, he soon knew them all. He spent the first 13 years of his life in Virginia Beach, with his sister Shannon, before moving to Mechanicsville, Virginia. His Mom, Vera, described him as inquisitive, curious, wanted to know the how and why, easy-going, observant, and respectful.

Young Shane with his sister, Shannon

During his school years, he was active in Boy Scouts (Troop 521), was an avid reader, lover of Legos, played soccer, wrestled, went camping, rock climbing and repelling, surfing, and rugby. Being the renaissance man that he was, he was perfectly comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans, being at a Broadway show, and serving as a volunteer firefighter at Company 10 Firestation in Ashland, VA. He never shied away from competition, to the point of wrestling at the lowest weight possible in 9th grade; he would enjoy the largest ice cream sundae one could imagine to make sure he made the weight class. Shane was a loyal friend, and when one of his best friends (who was born on the same day as him) had failing kidneys, Shane would stay with him while he was on dialysis during a week-long Boy Scout camping trip out of state.

Shane and his Mom before a Scouting adventure

He and his sister Shannon (3 years younger) were typical siblings growing up, knowing full well that for those of us that have siblings, the parents play referee now and then. They were close, and I am sure appreciated the presence of each other as the years went by. They both loved being with their family, including their grandparents. During one Christmas Break, when home from college, Shane and Shannon took a spur of the moment surfing trip to Sebastian Inlet, Florida. After graduating from his Field Artillery Basic Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in December 2003, Shane drove to Harrisonburg, VA to see her graduate from James Madison University.

Shane and his sister, Shannon

Shane and Shannon, Surfin’ USA

Maris and Vera shared that they were stewards of God’s gift to them of their son, whose own deep faith goes back to when he was 9/10 years old and accepted Christ. Shane was active in the youth group at his church, and his faith deepened during Army Basic Training in Oklahoma; in fact, the church he attended there on Sunday mornings was held in a bar.

Maris, Vera, Shannon, and Shane Adcock

Graduating in the Class of 1997 from Atlee High School, Shane received a scholarship and embarked on his college years at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. While there his last two years, he participated in the Simultaneous Member Program where he was a member of the Virginia National Guard attached to Sandston, VA, and the ROTC program at Longwood.

Knowing that kids teach parents too, especially what is to be valued, I asked Maris and Vera what they learned from Shane. It is live life to the fullest, show love to those you love, it is OK to question, respect the position, personal respect needs to be earned, forgive those who wrong you, and don’t take anything for granted.

Stand Tall and Walk Proud

If there was one thing very clear about Shane, he knew who he was and lived life fully with no regrets. Unfortunately, those close to him expected to spend more time with him than was granted.

His decision to join the Army came from the experiences of his Grandfather Papa and the stories both he and his Dad shared with him. Maris shared that it was hard on him with his Dad gone so long on Navy deployments, they were typically 10-11 months, with Maris left with little time to be with his Dad as a kid. Shane learned that the Army typically has shorter deployments and decided to proceed and that would be best for him. His grandfather administered the oath when he was sworn in.

After doing ROTC at Longwood and graduating in 2003, he was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Trained in Field Artillery, his first tour of duty was to Afghanistan in 2004 where he served for 14 months; he was embedded with Special Forces on the Afghan/Iraq border and was a Forward Observer helping with field targeting. During this deployment, Shane experienced the first loss of a soldier killed in action.

Captain Shane Adcock, with his Captain bars

It was when he came home, that his life took a turn that only God could foresee. During some R&R in October 2004, his fraternity brothers from Longwood threw a Welcome Home party, where he met his future wife, Jennifer, who was from Hawaii and was in Richmond for the party with her roommate from Duke. His fraternity brothers thought they would be a great match, and one can only think of all the ‘what ifs’ that did not occur so they could meet. It was email and phone for the first few months of dating and even went on a double date with his parents to a Washington Nationals game.

On June 4th, 2006, Jen and Shane wed on the Big Island of Hawaii, on the Kohala Coast; it breaks my heart knowing that they did not have long together. Two weeks later Jen returned to school at Duke University and Shane was sent to Fort Sill for special training that would qualify him to direct close air support from the Air Force. He was one of the few throughout the Army who had received training for the Military Transition Team (MiTT) as a Fire Direction Officer and help the Air Force with targeting.

His sister Shannon got married in August 2005 and after his deployment to Afghan, his next tour of duty became Iraq.

We never know when is the last time

Proud, yet somewhat fearful. As Shane’s parents, as any would, those were their feelings each time Shane got deployed. In Afghanistan, they would talk every Sunday (Skype if possible). During the heartfelt conversation about the last time they saw their son, it reminds me of how we all vividly remember and treasure the details of that time itself.

After completion of his special training at Fort Sill, Shane returned to his unit in Hawaii to prepare for the upcoming deployment to Iraq. Upon hearing news of his upcoming deployment, Maris and Vera decided to do something to their son that he had done to them at home while he was at Longwood, just show up and surprise him. Vera felt called to see Shane and conveyed she felt uneasy about his next assignment, it was very violent in Iraq at this time. They planned the surprise with Jen, who was there with him.

Shane was “heads down, chin up” trying to pack and I’m sure there was a “Shane, can you get the door?!” from Jen upon hearing a knock. Eyebrows and arms went up when Shane opened the door and saw his parents had flown from Virginia to see him off. They all went and had dinner together (Roy’s) and agreed on steaks when he got back. They met him the next day and drove to the base where Shane needed to be an hour later. At midnight that night, they all met and drove to the base for his deployment. He got his weapon and he boarded a bus for a plane to Baghdad.

The picture below is the last time they saw Shane, there is nothing more poignant and moving than he and his Dad reaching out hands for each other, which in every which way says ‘Son, we love you and are proud of you’. I can’t keep my eyes dry knowing this was the last time Maris, Vera, and Jen saw Shane while not knowing it was the last time.

A parent’s love for their child is always within reach.

For Maris, the last time he heard his son’s voice was September 17th, 2006. Shane flew a flag on top of the Forward Operating Base and sent it to him for his birthday. They could not talk for long, and thought about riding their motorcycles together when he got back.

The Day the Earth Shook

Bliss, and then heartache.

Shane’s unit had deployed to Iraq early as he was filling in for an officer who had been killed; he had volunteered for the role. Vera said he was fearful of the last mission and her last conversation with him was at the hospital when he called to say he had a ‘business trip’ coming up; she told him to be safe, that she loved him and that they would talk when he got back. She knew he always prayed before missions.

What they would talk about is the excitement of his two nephews. His sister Shannon had just given birth to twin boys, and Vera was in the hospital visiting her daughter and grandkids. Pure bliss.

Shane was on his way back from the ‘business trip’ (his term for a mission) as his Humvee drove through the town of Hawijah. He was in the passenger seat, with the driver right next to him and the gunner in the rear. There were several Humvees in the convoy that were in front of them on the same route. As they went down a street, they saw a bunch of kids playing, and then, without having time to maneuver and respond without risking the kids, someone jumped out and threw a hand-thrown improvised explosive device (IED) at their Humvee and instantly killed Shane. The driver and gunner survived.

The knocks at the door came, at 10pm on October 11th, 2006. Not only for Maris and Vera, but for his wife Jen as well, who was studying at Duke. She was in the library and the officers had to wait until she returned to her dorm residence to convey the news, while at the same time coordinating the timing with informing Shane’s parents. Pure devastation and heartache.

There were 5 days between birth and death for Maris and Vera, bliss then heartache.

That day, October 11, 2006, there was a major earthquake on the Kohala Coast on the Island of Hawaii where Jen and Shane married, and it rained heavily.

It seemed that God was so moved and was crying too.

The bridge named in honor of Shane, Atlee Exit off I-95, in his hometown of Mechanicsville, VA

Shane Knew

They wondered if Shane knew about his new nephews. What they did know is that Shane had the largest contingent of non-military people at his funeral when he was laid to rest in Arlington Cemetery, section 60, where there are many Afghan and Iraq casualties.

For Maris and Vera, the grief would show up when they least expected it and then they would be right back where they were. They got used to it, and it really hit them when Shane’s unit came home and he was not there. The first year for them was a nightmare, something would be said or seen reminding them of Shane and they would understandably sob at times. The blessing of Shannon’s twins helped them tremendously get through the grief; kids have a way of helping wounds of the heart. Vera had a dream where Shane told her to take care of Shannon, and her employer was very flexible and she worked part-time while helping care for her grandkids.

Shane’s army friends have helped support them. The driver of the Humvee did come to visit them and shared with them about Shane and the event that day. Many of his friends in the Army have shared they felt they let him down. Through many encounters with Shane’s Army friends, Maris and Vera have attempted to reassure them that what happened to Shane was part of God’s greater plan and there was nothing they could have done to change the outcome. Maris and Vera have tried to ease their discomfort and loss.

Shane’s wife, Jennifer, receiving the flag at Shane’s funeral at Arlington Cemetery

May and October continue to be tough months to get through, with May 24th being Shane’s birthday. They continue to talk about Shane and share stories with their grandkids and participate in events in which they feel Shane would want them.

What gave them reassurance was when they received Shane’s laptop from his service. They opened it, and turned it on to see what Shane saw. The screensaver had a picture of Shane’s new nephews.

He was an uncle and he knew. Thank God he knew.

A Mural in Colorado Springs

I know the memories of him and his sister of when Shane was their babysitter must be a treasure. The innocence of those days paired with the hard reality of when he found out Shane would not be coming home; was like a dagger to the stomach. His sister felt the same. Chris Woychak, and his sister Brittany, were cared for as kids by Shane often.

Shane, Chris, and Brittany

The parents knew each other well, so when he saw the silhouette of his Dad coming into his room late the night of October 11th, 2006, after the Adcock’s called them, struck a chord and it took him a full day to come to terms with reality. He went to his Middle School counselor the next day. The funeral was hard, along with coming to terms with how it happened and all the what-ifs.

In talking to Chris and his memories of Shane, he will forever be influenced by his life and the way he lived. Shane was the life of any get together and was always dedicated to his own fitness and spiritual fitness. For Chris, the biggest aspect that stood out to him was Shane’s Christian faith and it reaffirmed his own.

Chris is now an Air Force Captain (Shane suggested the Air Force to him) and throughout his school years he played football, was part of Troop 521 Boy Scout Troop (Shane’s Troop), and made Eagle Scout (like Shane). His sister Brittany is now married into the military as well.

Chris went to the Air Force Academy, and having the presence of Shane forever by him was left for future generations that come to Colorado Springs. Go to Vandenburg Hall, Cadet Squadron 16. Shane’s life lived out according to John 15:13 is a mural on the wall so he can be remembered. Chris took it on as a project to honor Shane.

Mural honoring Shane at the Air Force Academy

Shane is still always close by to Chris

Loving and Living “2 Extreme”

Having spent the last month getting to know Shane through his family and friends, I can’t think of a better example of being the friend you want to have; Shane was exactly that. His parents want him to be remembered as a man who loved God, family, and country. He was always willing to make sacrifices for others – be it a volunteer firefighter as a teen, buying food for a homeless person, taking a little person to a dance, jumping out of a car to push a broken down car, or stopping to help at an accident. He lived his life fully with no regrets.

Shane would want us to live honorably with others in our lives, and show gratitude and a willingness to be helpful.

Causes that were close to Shane’s heart that you can support include the Fisher House Foundation and Breast Cancer Research. There is also an endowed scholarship at Longwood University and a scholarship being administered by the Hanover Education Foundation for an Atlee High School Senior.

Spending time writing this has elicited a range of emotions, including tears as I can’t help to take a long hard look at how I’m living my own life, the strength of my Christian faith, and reflecting on the time and moments spent with loved ones, with the intent on pursuing purposeful and worthwhile adventures that my loved ones would want me to fulfill. This was one of Shane’s favorites, and the message resonates with all.

His license plate said “2 Extreme”. That is how Shane loved and lived.

We can do the same.

Thanks Shane, we bleed as one my friend.

God Bless and Let’s Honor and Remember those who served and lived out John 15:13.

Until Next Time,

Ed