Challenges Motivated Ambushed Ex-Marine

Times Staff Writer

Even after retiring from the Marines two years ago, James D. "Jim" Wilshire was looking for more challenges.

During more than 20 years in the military, the master sergeant guarded U.S. embassies and facilities around the world, including some in Kuwait during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

A resident of Corona, he retired in 2001 from the 3rd Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion based in Twentynine Palms and took a job with Erinys International, a South African company that contracted to provide security for Iraq's oil fields.

Two months ago, Wilshire, 43, went to Iraq as a manager in charge of training Iraqi guards, said John Garratt, Erinys managing director.

Working outside Baghdad, Wilshire was shot and killed Nov. 11 when his vehicle was ambushed, according to his family and company officials.

He was buried Friday at Riverside National Cemetery.

"The only thing I can say is love of country is why he went," said his widow, Bonnie, 44. "It was what he felt in his heart was right."

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Wilshire graduated from Marshwood High School in Eliot, Maine, his family said.

He and his two brothers followed their father into military service.

Their father, James, retired as an Air Force master sergeant in 1977.

Wilshire joined the Marines in 1979 and was stationed at Camp Pendleton. Brother Jeff, 42, retired in 2002 as an Army master sergeant assigned to an ROTC unit in Wisconsin; brother Robert, 35, is a technical sergeant with the 737 Training Group at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

In Iraq, Wilshire frequently talked about his family, said Bruce Mathis, Wilshire's roommate in Baghdad. "He was an extremely family-oriented man," said Mathis, a retired Marine. "He talked to his wife every day."

Wilshire had hoped to return to Corona on Dec. 17 to spend Christmas with his wife and daughters -- Vanessa, 25; Alexis, 20; Nicole, 19; and Sara, 15 -- and two grandchildren, Jarred, 6, and MaKenna, 3.

"He was a proud man to say he had four girls," Bonnie Wilshire said. "He just wanted to be with his family."

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