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KIA Soldier Took Wife's Place in Iraq

A Virginia National Guardsman who re-enlisted so his wife, also a member of the National Guard, wouldn't have to go back to Iraq was killed April 16 when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb south of Baghdad.

Staff Sgt. Jesse Ault of Dublin in Pulaski County was 28. He was serving with E Company in the 429th Brigade Support Battalion out of Roanoke.

A native of Wheeling, W.Va., who grew up in Middlebourne, W.Va., Ault joined the U.S. Army while still in high school and joined the National Guard after moving to Virginia.

Yesterday, his wife, Betsy Ault, said she and her husband were dating in 2004 when their unit was deployed to Balad, Iraq. They returned to Virginia and married, she said, and her husband was "100 percent family," relishing time spent playing with her son, Nathan, 10, and their toddler, Adam, 1. He was so devoted to the family, she said, that he decided to take her place after her unit was told it was being sent to Iraq.

"Jesse separated from the Guard after the deployment [to Iraq], but I was still serving when my unit was alerted early 2007," she said. "Jesse loved our family so much and saw how important it was for me to stay with my sons, he joined the National Guard again to take my place on the deployment.

"The day he landed in Kuwait, I found out we were pregnant. He was allowed emergency leave to come home to see the birth of our daughter, Rachel." Rachel is now 4 months old.

Mrs. Ault is still a member of the Guard but is in the process of being discharged, according to Guard Maj. Alfred Puryear.

Ault was killed just three days after another Virginia National Guardsman, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah McNeal of Norfolk, was killed near Baghdad.

"There should be no doubt that the Virginia National Guard has an important role in the global war on terrorism," said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman Jr., adjutant general of Virginia, in a written statement yesterday. "Now more than ever, we all need to strengthen our resolve and continue to stand behind our men and women serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Mrs. Ault said her husband "was a loving and dedicated father and husband and a brave and loyal soldier."

"Jesse loved all things University of West Virginia and Jeff Gordon," she added. "He cheered for the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Braves. He liked fishing and golf and loved to ride sleds down the hill with Nathan."



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