When Jason Weaver of Anaheim was 15, he told his mother he wanted to join the military. She told him to think about it.
Two years later, Patricia Weaver came home to find her son meeting with a recruiter. She told the man to leave.
“I said, ‘I got one more year with my baby,’” she said. “It was my only child.”
But her son persisted. After he graduated from El Dorado High School in Placentia in 2007, he decided to get in shape to join the Army. He lost 60 pounds, quit his job at a local grocery store and enlisted in January 2008.
Sgt. Jason Weaver, 22, was killed by an improvised explosive device March 3 in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, on the Pakistani border.
A military police officer, he was assigned to the 504th Military Police Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. He was on his first deployment.
Known for his positive attitude, charming smile and passion for the Green Bay Packers, he also was a son with a strong relationship with his mother, who raised her child alone.
As a boy, he often played jokes on his mom. He jumped out from behind walls to startle her, and, at Halloween, put fake spiders and snakes in her bed.
But when he needed to be serious, he was. Weaver was known for cheering people up, especially his mother. “He would always tell me negativity is the wrong way to look at life,” she said.
At Wagner Elementary School in Placentia, he didn’t like to see his classmates bully each other. He would tell them it “just wasn’t right.” He also hated missing class and would get mad at his mother if she tried to schedule doctor’s appointments during school hours.
“He just loved going to school and being around people,” said Patricia Weaver, now of Las Vegas.
As he got older, he wanted more responsibility. He quit playing football to start working at his first job, at a supermarket. It wasn’t long before he saved up for his first car. Later, he worked at Stater Bros. in Anaheim, where colleagues remembered him as someone who always made work fun.
Brandi Strout, 26, of Temecula said she and Weaver played practical jokes on co-workers, sometimes wrapping other employees’ cars in plastic.
“He was just a funny guy, very charming. We just clicked,” Strout said. “We both liked to have fun.”
Another former co-worker, Matthew Erickson, said Weaver was the first person he thought of when he needed to ask for a ride to the hospital for the birth of his daughter, Sara, in 2007. “I knew he was the only reliable guy I could trust,” Erickson said.
Soon after, Weaver declined a promotion at the grocery store and joined the Army.
Sgt. Manuel Vargas met Weaver during training in 2009 and the two quickly became friends. “There was just something about him,” Vargas said. “He’s a guy you could get along with.”
Weaver’s platoon sergeant, Eddie Vader, said the soldier had a personality that drew people to him.
“If everyone was down, he would just start cracking jokes,” Vader said. “When we were sleeping in the dirt, he would find some way of poking fun or bringing some humor or amusement into the situation.”
Vader said Weaver enjoyed interacting with the Afghans he met and taught several children to say, “Yo, dude!” A YouTube video shows excited kids shaking hands with the soldier.
“They would always flock to him out on patrol,” Vader said.
The last time his mother spoke to Weaver, he told her he did not want to reenlist in the military. He wanted to come home to California, go back to school and become an Anaheim police officer. Three days later, he was dead.
“There were two other soldiers behind him — if he wasn’t there, easily all three of them could have been injured or killed,” Vader said. “Because they were behind them, they didn’t.”
Patricia Weaver said she thinks about her son every day.
“He was not just my son to me, he was my hero and my best friend,” she said.