A 29-year-old soldier from Seffner died in Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Thursday.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason John Fabrizi was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in the Konar province Tuesday when his mounted patrol was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.
In a phone call from Chillicothe, Mo., Fabrizi's stepfather, Timothy Hess, said this was Fabrizi's fourth tour of duty.
"He went to Iraq three times before," said Hess, who is a retired Marine gunnery sergeant. "He was a hero in the Army. He had a chest full of medals."
Fabrizi was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. The Department of Defense said he had earned a Purple Heart, two Army Commendation Medals, two Bronze Stars and more than a dozen other honors during his service.
His mother, Mary Hess, is also a retired Marine gunnery sergeant, so his decision to join the military was no surprise.
"We lived all over for a time," Timothy Hess said. "But we moved to Seffner in 1993, and Jason went to middle school and high school there."
Hess said his stepson enlisted two or three days after he graduated from Armwood High in 1998 and loved what he did. The former high school wrestler also made great friends in the service, he said.
"I imagine his men are taking it really hard," Hess said. "They really loved him, and he would have done anything for them."
But more than anything Fabrizi love his family.
When he married his first wife, Teri Anderson, in 1999, he had his grandfather, the Rev. George Hess, come down from Missouri to perform the ceremony, according to Hillsborough County records.
The couple had two sons, Jason Allen and Tyler, who are 9 and 6, respectively. Hess said the boys stayed in Riverview with their mother after a 2006 divorce but remained close to their father.
The boys played lots of sports with their father, including spending the summer of 2008 playing Little League in Colorado, where he was stationed.
"He loved sports, and the boys played baseball with him," said Dora Anderson, Teri's mother. "He was a great guy, and we couldn't have asked for a better son if we had had him ourselves."
Fabrizi later married Kristie Kool, of Fort Carson, Colo., and had another son, 2-year-old Layne Timothy, and has a daughter due in October.
Hess says that before Fabrizi deployed in June, he traveled to the Florida Keys with his current wife and youngest son to visit his mother. He was met there by his brother, Jarrod Hess of Valrico, and his-ex wife and sons.
"It was a little family reunion down there for them. And then I took my parents to Colorado to visit with him before he left," Hess said. "Family was really important to him, so I'm glad they got to see him."
Army officers in Valrico, the Florida Keys, Colorado and Missouri went to the family's homes to deliver the news of his death.
Anderson said her daughter brought the officers to her house because the boys were with her so they could deliver the news.
"Jason (Allen) took it the hardest because he understood fully what had happened," she said. "Tyler asked the soldiers if his dad had been shot or blown up like Ryan (his step father)."
Anderson said her daughter Teri's second husband was also in the military and was killed in Iraq in 2007, so the boys have now lost both their father and stepfather to the war.
"We were devastated to hear the news (about Fabrizi)," she said. "We loved him very much."
Funeral arrangements have not been set, but the family has decided Fabrizi will be buried in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was born.
His remains are set to arrive at Dover, Del., Thursday night.
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or [email protected]