Remembering Navy SEAL Jason Workman
By Dan Bammes
Blanding, UT – The procession from the mortuary on Blanding's main street to the Mormon church a few blocks away was the only public part of a memorial service last weekend in Blanding for Petty Officer Jason Workman. Inside the church, other Navy SEALs, family and community leaders honored his life and service out of the spotlight.
San Juan High School football coach Monty Lee says Workman's death in Afghanistan has hit the town hard. "It was, I think, as close as it could be to losing a son."
Lee helped Workman win All-State honors at San Juan High School. He recalled a game when a teammate had made a big mistake. "The kid was upset with himself and I happened to walk by and Jason had his arm around him and he just simply said, The sun's gonna come up tomorrow. Forget about it.'"
High school classmate Heather Morgan says Jason was friendly to everybody. "He was very much a leader, as far as being open to other people and willing to, y'know, whether you were Native American or of another race or religion or whatever, he was very open to just letting you be who you are and didn't judge you and things like that."
After high school, Workman served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil and earned a college degree in criminal justice from Southern Utah University. Friends say he was furious after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. A statement from his family, released through a Navy spokesperson, says "He joined the United States Navy and strove to become a SEAL to serve a calling higher than him."
His younger brother Cory is a Blanding police officer, and on visits back home, Jason offered to share some of his tactical training with local officers. During one of those sessions, he burst into the coach's office unexpectedly. Coach Lee remembers that moment. "Without hesitation, he just stopped and walked over and gave me a great big hug. And what kind of kid, that has excelled and evolved into the person that he was would bother to stop and take time to acknowledge an old friend."
But Jason Workman had more on his mind. He was married and had a 21-month-old son. He told San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge he wanted to bring his family back to southern Utah. "He told me, y'know, he says, I'm not going to be in the military all my life' and he, in fact, had asked me if I was to win the election as sheriff, he'd like to come back and would like to get into law enforcement. He just wanted to come back to small-town Blanding and raise his family here,"
Blanding is one of many communities in rural America that has paid a high price since the war on terrorism began. This town of 33-hundred lost a Marine in 2004 and an Army medic in 2007. Its Army National Guard unit has been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Governor Gary Herbert attended Jason Workman's memorial service, as he has many others over the years, and recently returned from visiting members of the military from Utah in Iraq and Afghanistan. Herbert told his monthly news conference on KUED "We have the best of the best, men and women out there on the front lines protecting our liberties and freedoms and trying to give an opportunity for a better life in a foreign land, in very difficult circumstances. Their courage, their perseverance, their dedication and their patriotism is outstanding."
Petty Officer First Class Jason Workman served in the Navy for eight years. He died a week short of his 33rd birthday.