Blecksmith's since seventh grade -- fell into the water and got
caught in the current.
"It was the time of year when the water was really high, and the
other people in the boat were sort of petrified, not knowing really
what to do," said Tom Fry, who was an assistant coach on the Rebel
football team when Blecksmith was a standout quarterback, earning
first-team All-CIF honors in 1997 and 1998.
"But J.P., without any hesitation, he bounced over to the other
side of the boat, reached with one arm and pulled Ross out by his
"That's just one of the many times he's been there for me," said
Fippinger, trying his best to hold back tears. "He was always there
As Blecksmith's high school football coach Glen Beattie put it,
"that was just J.P. being J.P. Everybody looked up to him. He fit the
mold of a leader."
Which is why after graduating from the Naval Academy with a
bachelor's degree in economics in 2003, Blecksmith enrolled in the
U.S. Marine Corps.
"He wanted to lead his own troops," Flintridge Prep Athletic
Director Alex Rivera said. "He wanted to be a leader. He was always a
Blecksmith, who played linebacker and wide receiver for the Navy
football team after graduating from Flintridge Prep in 1999, was a
2nd lieutenant and a platoon commander of the 3rd Battalion, 5th
Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Blecksmith was killed during a military
operation in Fallouja, Iraq. He was 24 years old, having celebrated
his birthday Sept. 26.
Since his death, those that knew him at Flintridge Prep have had a
difficult time accepting the fact that Blecksmith is gone.
Their only comfort is the memories and stories they share of the
6-foot-3, 220-pounder, who was also a CIF-caliber sprinter and a peer
counselor for middle school students.
"He died as a hero, but he was always a hero to us," Fry said.
"That's the way he lived. That's the way he saw himself.
"When he set a goal, he was relentless in achieving it. If there
was somebody who was going to accomplish something really great, he
was going to be one of those people."