Approximately 2200 local time 9 April 2008, SSG Ault was driving the lead vehicle on a north bound mission just south of Baghdad, Iraq. This was to be his last mission and was a validation run for the unit’s replacements. He thought he saw something in the median, so he slowed to investigate. This is what the lead vehicle did. It led the way and ensured it was safe for the rest of the convoy to come through. As he slowed an EFP (Explosive Formed Projectile) detonated and pierced his armored Freightliner. SSG Ault was struck in the chest. He died before he could be MEDIVAC’d from MSR Tampa, halfway around the world from his wife, stepson, son and new born daughter.
SSG Jesse “Hillbilly” Ault deployed with Company E, 429 Brigade Support Battalion in 2007. Based out of Roanoke, VA, SSG Ault was not required to deploy when the unit got orders. He had completed his time in the military to include one tour to Iraq, where he met his wife. At the time Echo received orders his pregnant wife was a member of the unit. SSG Ault reenlisted in order to take his wife’s place so that she could stay home and care for their son and his stepson.
A Special Message:
Good afternoon, my name is Betsy Ault. I will talk to you about my husband, Jesse Ault. I will make a very
personal statement, and I ask that the media respect my wishes and not contact
me, my family or friends after this.
I am here today to tell you about Staff Sergeant Jesse Ault. Jesse was a loving
and dedicated father and husband and a brave and loyal Soldier.
Jess was born in Wheeling, West Virginia and grew up in Middleburg, West
Virginia, and graduated from Tyler County High School.
He and his best friend, Travis, joined the U.S. Army before they even graduated
from high school. Two months after graduation, they shipped off to basic
training and ended up in Fort Bragg. Travis and Jesse were always together.
Travis and Jesse were like brothers. After serving four years on active duty,
Jesse and Travis moved to Virginia and joined the Virginia National Guard.
I met Jesse during annual training the summer of 2002. I was in the 229th
Chemical Company, and he was in the 1710th Transportation Company. We were
alerted that we may be deployed. Though we did not deploy, our units trained
together during the next two years.
My maiden name is Allen, and the Army does everything in alphabetical order. So,
Jesse was always in line behind me. We did a lot of things together in groups.
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?”
The units were alerted in 2004 and combined and deployed as the 1173rd
Transportation Company to Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq. You can say that we were
dating each other when we were on deployment.
When Jesse met my son, Nathan, we were on a 5-day pass for Christmas. Though
Jesse was quiet and shy, Nathan just crawled right up on Jesse’s lap. Jesse and
Nathan became best buds then and there — it was instant.
Jesse loved Nathan, and after we returned from Iraq, he told me that he loved
Nathan so much and wanted a baby of his own. We got married on the front steps
of my father’s house, and not too long after that, Adam was born.
When Jesse found out he was going to have a son, he bought Jeff Gordon outfits
and West Virginia gear for “his little man.”
Jesse loved all things University of West Virginia and Jeff Gordon. He cheered
for the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Braves. He liked fishing and golf and
loved to ride sleds down the hill with Nathan.
Jesse separated from the Guard after the deployment, but I was still serving
when my unit was alerted in early 2007.
Jesse loved our family so much and saw how important it was for me to stay with
my sons. He joined the National Guard again to take my place on the deployment.
The day he landed in Kuwait, I found out we were pregnant. He was allowed
emergency leave to come home to see the birth of our daughter, Rachel, she is 4
He called me every day when he was in Iraq, even the day he died. He would always
ask how his “little man” and “baby doll” were doing.
I want you to know Jesse Ault. When he was not in uniform, he was 100% family.
That was what meant the most.
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.
Even when he was at home for the birth of his daughter, he worried that he
wasn’t there to take care of his guys in Iraq.
The guys from Iraq called me to talk about Jesse, and I know that he meant a lot
to the Soldiers and that he will be missed by everyone who knew him.