taken from the Antelope Valley Press, March 22nd, 2007
PALMDALE - He loved his bride of eight months, his family and friends, his music and the military. From all accounts of those who knew Army Sgt. John Allen, he simply loved life.
But the 25-year-old Army medic's life ended Saturday in Iraq, when a roadside bomb exploded near a vehicle carrying him and three fellow 1st Cavalry Division soldiers during the ongoing security sweep in Baghdad.
Private remembrance services for Allen, a 1999 Palmdale High School graduate who served in the Navy before joining the Army and had been on multiple tours in Iraq, are set for 4 p.m. Friday at a longtime friend's home at 2824 East Ave. Q-2, Palmdale.
Allen's funeral will take place at Arlington National Cemetery, where his grandfather is buried, said another longtime friend, Mandy Montgomery.
Montgomery said everyone who knows Allen will remember these things: him doing backflips over the neighborhood wall, him climbing light poles, him carrying cherry Chapstick everywhere and his ability to play piano.
Allen was always thoughtful, Montgomery said.
"John was known for being there for anybody. If he saw you coming home from the grocery, he'd be the first one to help carry the packages," said Montgomery, 22, who knew him since childhood.
Allen also had a passion for drawing.
"The last thing he was working on was a picture of his wife," Montgomery said.
Chris Blaylock, a friend since junior high school, said he "always kept everybody smiling."
"One of my favorite memories: John comes by my home and asks, 'Do you want to go somewhere?' I thought the pool hall or something like that. He tells me, 'Let's drive to Arizona.' He wanted to go visit someone. He always had time for a friend. It was raining. We were driving in my old Camaro," Blaylock, 25, said. "We had a great time."
Allen's parents, Richard and Kellie Allen, were away Wednesday from the family's Palmdale home, where he grew up with his twin sister Amanda and younger brother Adam, now also in the military and stationed in Alaska. A red and gold satin banner from Blue Star Mothers, a military support group, hangs in a front window.
Allen's wife, Aspen, whom he met when he was a senior and she a freshman at Palmdale High School and whom he married in July, is in Texas, where her husband was based at Fort Bliss.
Denver Shinkle, Aspen's brother, said Allen's death hit his sister hard. "She's barely sleeping."
Shinkle remembers his sister's excitement as she announced her marriage plans. "She walked in the door and said, 'You've got a new brother-in-law.' "
He added that July 7 will mark their first anniversary. Allen spent four years in the Navy before enlisting in the Army. While home Allen proposed to his high school sweetheart and she accepted.
Shinkle said this was Allen's third or fourth tour of duty in Iraq.
Aspen's aunt Karen Bosch described her niece as "numb and upset."
Bosch described Allen as "a great young man. He loved my niece and wanted to take care of her."
Shinkle equally admired his brother-in-law. "He was good to my sister and made her happy. That's all that counts. He was outgoing, a funny guy, made everyone laugh. Everyone loved him."
Allen's piano playing introduced him to Palmdale High choir director Mike McCullough.
"He would come into my room to play piano at lunchtime. That's what got him into choir. He came to me late in his high school career - around his junior year. But he was really, really determined to do well. He worked very hard at it."
McCullough said Allen was a baritone and liked spiritual and classical choral music.
"That year we sang 'Ave Maria' by Anton Bruckner. He really loved that," McCullough said.
McCullough called Allen "incredibly respectful - a person of very high character, polite, courteous and a strong young man. I was pretty confident he was going to choose military."
Elisa Clark, president of the Blue Star Mothers, Antelope Valley Chapter 14, said her organization formed to support the armed forces and their families.
At times like this, Clark said, "We do whatever (families) want. If they want us to do food for following the services, we will do that. If they want us to speak at the funeral, we will do that. If they don't want us to do anything, we just stay back. We also prepare a memorial book with prayers, letters and pictures."
"He was just a good kid," said Robyn, 44, a neighbor of the Allens for 19 years who declined to give her last name. "He hung around with all the kids, was always pleasant to be around. He loved art, was an excellent artist."
Kyle, 16, Robyn's nephew, looked up to Allen. Kyle, who also asked that his last name not be used, lived two doors down from the Allen household for 12 years. His most treasured memory is the Fourth of July, when neighbors from the entire block gathered at the wall, the one Allen used for backflips, and watched fireworks taking place at Palmdale High.Here is a photo of John and I in High School. I was in 9th grade.