KIA September 8, 2009
Operation Enduring Freedom
Assigned to an embedded training team with Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan
Navy Hospital Corpsman HM3 James “Doc” Layton died September 8, 2009, in Kunar province, Afghanistan, when his unit was ambushed by insurgents. Also killed were Marine 1LT Michael Johnson, SSG Aaron Kenefick, and Gunnery SGT Edwin Wayne Johnson.
Their unit was on a mission to meet village elders and establish the Afghan government’s authority in the mountains near the Pakistani border, a largely Taliban-controlled tribal region through which fighters and weapons are smuggled. The troops walked into the valley leading to the village, which is surrounded on three sides by mountains. As daylight broke, they began to hear shots, and realized they had walked into a trap. From the slopes of the mountains, gunfire and grenades rained down on about 80 Afghan soldiers and 12 U.S. troops. Taking cover, they radioed for help, but helicopter support would not arrive for 80 minutes. After the six-hour firefight was over, Layton’s body was found slumped over 1LT Johnson – bandage wrappings scattered around there bodies. During the attack, Layton had rushed from his sheltered position with his first aid kit to help his wounded comrade and was struck by gunfire while tending his wounds.
“This guy died a hero,” said CPL Dakota Meyer, the Marine who retrieved Layton’s body. In 2011, CPL Meyer received the Medal of Honor in recognition for his acts of extraordinary valor during this battle.
James Layton grew up in Riverbank, California. As the eldest son, he helped with his siblings and began working as a teenager, first cleaning RV’s, then picking up jobs at a pizzeria and other restaurants, sometimes walking two or three miles to work. James graduated from Vista High School in Escalon in 2005. Although torn on which career path to choose – with his father being in Law Enforcement and his grandfather’s service as a Navy Air Traffic Controller – James’ desire to make a difference in life ultimately led him to enlist in the Navy in 2007. His plan was to get an education in health care, see the world during his eight years of service, and become a radiology technician. “He was a caring person, so it didn’t surprise me that he was looking at the healing profession,” said his grandmother, Kathy Anderson.
HM3 Class James Layton was 22 years old from Riverbank, California
Original portrait was presented August 21, 2014 to his parent during a special event hosted by the Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga, California.
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