A solider, and coach, passes away

Master Sgt. Shawn Simmons died in Afganistan on Saturday. In addition to being a Special Forces solider, he was also a youth baseball coach in Hope Mills.

I’m grateful for his serivce to his country and to the children of Hope Mills.

Below is the story that will appear in Wednesday’s Sandspur. Feel free to post a memory or a tribute to Shawn here.

By Tina Ray
The Sandspur

Master Sgt. Shawn Simmons, a Special Forces soldier who died in Afghanistan on Saturday, had ties to Parkton and Hope Mills and was a youth baseball coach in Hope Mills who loved children.
“My husband had a very sweet spirit about him,” said his widow, Tricia Simmons. “He got along with everybody. He had a lot of good things to say and he was that way all the time.”
Simmons’ widow, Tricia said her husband was a very good coach who was caring and loved everyone.
The family moved to Hope Mills in 1999, where he anticipated becoming a coach.
Simmons served as an assistant coach with the Hitmen, a baseball team affiliated with the Hope Mills Youth Association., said HMYA board member Jerry Legge, a member of the volunteer organization’s board.
“He has always wanted to be a coach,” Tricia Simmons said. “He was touched by a lot of people in Hope Mills.”
Simmons’ son, Justin, was a pitcher and first baseman for the Hitmen, a team of 9- to 10-year-olds.
Simmons also is survived by his wife, Tricia and his 12-year-old daughter, Erin.; and son, Justin, all of Hope Mills.
A native of Parkton, Simmons, who was 39, joined the Army in 1992 and had deployed to Afghanistan twice. He was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg. He was originally from Tallahassee, Fla.
Marcus Jones was the Hitmen’s coach. He and Simmons coached the team for the past two years.
“He was a very, very respectable man,” said Jones. “He loved kids and he was a great father to his kids and a great mentor and coach to all kids.”
Jones notified the team via telephone and e-mail of Simmons’ death after hearing the news Sunday from Simmons’ widow, Tricia Simmons.
Jones said that Tricia Simmons has strong support from family and church members who are helping her cope, he said.
The family has been active in Cliffdale Christian Center in Fayetteville, where Shawn Simmons served as an usher.
After taking stock of Simmons’ military career, fFormer HMYA president Craig Archer recruited Simmons to serve in the youth association. A retired Army master sergeant, Archer had once trained Simmons in Special Forces.
“I’m the guy that convinced him to start coaching,” said Archer, who moved to Tampa, Fla., in April and was reached by telephone Tuesday. “I knew him from our military experience and I told him that we needed good leaders and I thought he could do the same for the kids.”
Simmons was a really good man who worked hard during his military career and was very talented, Archer said.
Simmons’ loss will be measured felt around Hope Mills for a long time.
“That was a fine family; seems like it always happens to good people,” aid Jerry Legge, a member of the HMYA board. “It’s a big loss not only for the family, but for the town of Hope Mills and the Hope Mills Youth Association.
Funeral arrangements will be set at a later date in Tallahassee. A memorial service is tentative for North Carolina.
Simmons is the second soldier from Hope Mills to die in the war on terror. Spc. Steven Elrod, 20, also died in a vehicle rollover incident in Baghdad in September 2007. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne.

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One Response to “A solider, and coach, passes away”

  1. Monique Parker Says:

    Thanks so much for honoring my Brother in Christ, Master Sgt. Shawn Simmons. He was a man of great integrity and no matter was he set his heart to do, he did it with excellence and with joy. I remember talking to his wife Tricia one day when she was working with the sound ministry at church. We were talking about Shawn, Tricia was saying how he jokes all the time and makes the family laugh. She said, “he’s the comedian of the family”. I said that is good to have someone with a sense of humor. I remember Brother Shawn in his “Men in Blue” suit, his usher uniform. He would be standing on the door making sure to open it if someone was coming or going, on days of communion he would pass out the elements for us to partake in. He took his ministry duties serious and always kept a smile. Shawn had no problem keeping the peace and order in the foyer area of church but it was always with a smile and in love. I recently remember his performing our interactive church announcements with a kick and a slide across the floor; as if Michael Jackson taught him his entire dance moves, literally. Brother Shawn, your presence, your personality, your meek, fun, and loving spirit, your out pour of consideration and wisdom, and your smile will be truly missed for a long time to come. Shawn, I can only imagine what you see, while sitting in the Lord’s House, a Mansion that belongs to you. To Tricia, Erin, Justin, and mother Simmons, God’s peace, love, comfort, hope, direction, and strength, for each one of you to be immersed in, I pray. I love you dearly, Sister Monique.

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