Tim Shea wasn’t the strongest offensive lineman on his high school football team, but he worked hard and surely was among the most memorable.
A 2001 graduate of a small Catholic school in Northern California, Shea wasn’t an MVP, but his former coach remembers him as being a leader in terms of team spirit.
“He was always very upbeat,” said Gary Galloway, who coaches football, basketball and baseball at St. Vincent de Paul High School in Petaluma. “I don’t think I ever heard him [say] anything negative about anyone. He was always up, and the other kids picked up on that. He was fun to be with at all times.”
Shea was so well-liked that he was crowned homecoming king in his senior year.
The Sonoma native attended community college for a few years before enlisting in the Army in January 2003. He became a corporal in the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment based at Ft. Benning, Ga..
On Aug. 25, the 22-year-old Shea and two other soldiers were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Husaybah, Iraq. The other casualties -- Master Sgt. Ivica Jerak, 42, of Houston and Sgt. 1st Class Trevor J. Diesing, 30, of Plum City, Wis. -- were assigned to the Army Special Operations Command at Ft. Bragg, N.C.
Shea was a five-time veteran of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, in which he served as a rifleman, grenade specialist and machine gun team leader. He had been approved for a Bronze Star Medal for valor, a Purple Heart and Good Conduct and Meritorious Service medals.
“My son was a good man who set his sights high and reached them by becoming a Ranger,” his father, William Shea, said in a statement. “He wanted to be part of history and not just read about it.”
Marc Mahoney, a former high school teammate of Tim Shea, said that his best friend enjoyed studying World War II, and that one of his favorite books was a sociologic text on the history of mankind titled “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.” At the same time, Shea was a big Harry Potter fan, Mahoney said.
“He always wanted to be the best in anything he did,” Mahoney said. “He said, ‘If I’m going to go into that Army, I’m going to be a Ranger.’ And that’s exactly what he did.”
Although Shea loved the idea of the military and saw it as a means to eventually pay for law school, he also had to confront the harsh realities of combat, Mahoney said.
“He was never gung-ho, like, ‘Let’s go fight this war,’ but he was really loyal to the guys in his platoon,” Mahoney said. “He really wasn’t very much for the war. He said, ‘Crazy stuff happens over there, but you deal with it.’ He said that he was a paid soldier of the U.S. armed forces and ‘it’s something I have to do. If I don’t agree with it, it doesn’t matter.’ ”
The attraction of Shea’s infectious, upbeat personality affected even people who knew him only casually. Mahoney said a few of his Loyola Marymount University fraternity brothers, who met Shea when he visited the campus, still remember the great times they had.
“Everybody who met him got along with him because he was impossible not to like,” Mahoney said. “You were never around Tim Shea and not [having] a good time.”