J.R. Segura helped Clovis win a rare district cross country title in 2000. (Courtesy photo)
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Leroy “J.R.” Segura Jr. approached running and military service in much the same manner — with an unbending work ethic and dedication to his friends and teammates.
Segura, a 2001 Clovis High graduate, died Friday from injuries sustained in a vehicle accident while serving in Habbaniyah, Iraq, a news release from Department of Defense reported.
An Army sergeant, Segura, 23, was in a Humvee that rolled while maneuvering over a river levee, according to officials with the public affairs office at Fort Benning, Ga. There were no other casualties in the unit, the officials said.
An avid runner in high school, Segura was also a good student, according to Mark Bussen, his high school cross country coach.
He helped Clovis win the district cross country title in 2000.
Bussen said Segura had an opportunity to attend college on a scholarship, but chose the Army.
“He was really a model citizen,” Bussen said. “He was a ‘yes’ or ‘no, sir’ person. He always did his share or more. He always cared about the people on his team.
“He was just a good trooper in all aspects — he wasn’t a complainer.”
On leave, Segura would return to Clovis and seek out his old teammates and coaches, Bussen said.
“The friends he had he took seriously,” Bussen said. “He wrote me letters and stayed in touch. That was important to him,”
Bussen said Segura expressed the same caring attitude toward his Army unit as he did his Clovis teammates.
“When he first went in (to the Army) the workouts didn’t seem that difficult,” Bussen said. “He’d always joke about some of those guys that didn’t do so well with the running.
“That part of Army life — running four to five miles a day and working out came as second nature to him.”
Clovis track coach Mike Hankins also visited with Segura several times since he joined the Army in 2002.
“I don’t think he was looking to go to war — (the Army) was just an opportunity for him that he wanted to take,” Hankins said.
Hankins expressed deep sadness over the death of Segura. “You hate to see something like this. When it’s one of our kids, it hits home a little bit harder. It just makes the reality of what goes on in the world a little closer to home. You get attached to a lot of the kids you coach — they become ‘our kids,’” he said.
Former Clovis teammate Jeremy King said their friendship revolved around running. They even went for a run the last time Segura visited, he said.
“He was great guy, a good runner. We were pretty close. He was very friendly and very kind,” said King, who joined the cross country team at Segura’s urging.
Segura was serving his second tour in Iraq, Bussen said. He suffered burns to his arms from a roadside bombing during his first tour, Bussen said.
He was assigned to the 362nd Engineer Company, 54th Engineer Battalion at Fort Benning, Ga., which deployed last month to Iraq.
Segura’s specialty with the engineering unit was building and maintaining Army bridges, according to Army officials.
Last month, another soldier with ties to Clovis died while serving in Afghanistan’s Zabul province. Army Sgt. Robert P. Kassin, 29, died near Larzab when his platoon came under enemy fire. He was assigned to Fort Polk, La.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said Monday he is deeply saddened by the deaths.
“Sgts. Segura and Kassin were brave young men whose lives tragically ended too soon,” he said in a news release. “My wife, Nancy, and I extend our heartfelt sympathy to their families and friends, and we continue to pray for the safety of our troops fighting for the global war on terrorism.”
• “He wasn’t a complicated person — everything was just ‘that’s the job we’ve got to do and we’re going to do that.’” — Mike Hankins, Segura’s coach at Clovis High School.
• “Loyalty, dedication, simplicity were the things that made his life. You knew what to expect. J.R. was J.R. and you knew what you were in for with him.” Mark Bussen, Segura’s cross country coach
Leroy Segura Jr.
Died: Friday, Aug. 4, 2006, in Iraq
Entered Army: Oct. 30, 2002
Unit: 362 Engineer Company, 54th Engineer Battalion
Specialty: Bridge crew member
Combat service: Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom