Raise your Beer, Toast a Hero: Justin Norton

The battle had reached its culminating point. The enemy, giving nearly everything this day, slowed their advance. 

The time was ripe for a re-attack but no one seemed willing to lead the charge.  That is, until a young, cherub-faced Soldier stepped forward.

"I got this!" shouted Justin Norton.

"Are you sure?" inquired the commander.

"Absolutely," said Justin, "I am ready."

Justin leapt out of the brush darting towards the objective positioned directly in front of him. With a fierce scream and a tenacious attitude, Justin single-handedly seized the enemy's base.

With a pooper scooper.   

The battle was now over. 

On this day, Justin's mom, Chris, is watching her son play in the yard. Even in his earliest years, Justin displayed a strong interest in the military. Countless hours were spent like this playing war with friends, dressing in camouflage with painted faces.

Sometimes Justin just pretended, using his own imagination to create the scene. Surely his weapon of choice (in his mind) was a rifle. Or sword. Maybe even a bazooka.

But on this day, like most boys do, this distraction had him deviating from his household chores. Wielding a pooper scooper, Justin saved the day. He always did. Chris couldn't help but be amused.

"When Justin would pick up dog poop, he would use the pooper scooper as his sword and gun," says Chris.  "It was so funny to watch him from the dining room window. He would talk to himself and play out an entire scene."

"When I look back, it was like I knew the path of his life."

Indeed, Justin Dean Norton would follow a path of selfless service. Born in Olympia, Washington on October 30th, 1984, Justin grew up in Rainier, Washington and graduated with honors from Rainier High School in 2003.  

Deeply moved by the attacks on September 11th, Justin followed his dream of serving by enlisting in the United States Army in the spring of his senior year. He served as a 19D Cavalry Scout and was assigned to Alpha Troop "Apaches", 1-10 Cavalry, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas.

For all that knew him, Justin was exactly everything you would imagine a Soldier to be. He was charismatic, selfless, and motivated. With a loud voice when he spoke, Justin exuded confidence. He was deeply committed and had a strong sense of duty.

Even at a young age, Justin had the maturity and foresight to understand what his service meant. At home on leave, mere months before he was to deploy to combat, Justin sat his family down. He had a request.

"Should anything happen to me and I not return, please start a scholarship so that others can work towards their life goals," Justin asked.

Justin not only understood sacrifice and selfless service - he embodied it. He was the type of guy that stepped forward when others shied away. Justin never could sit on the sidelines. Not with so much at stake. 

One day, following an attack, Justin volunteered to assist in searching an area where the enemy egressed. It was not his job or responsibility and Justin could have easily stood his post and been quiet. But that was not the type of man Justin Norton was.

Justin stepped forward.

Selfless service. Commitment to duty. Love for country. Concern for others.

That is the type of man Justin Norton was.

Justin Dean Norton gave his life in the service of others on June 24th, 2006 while conducting combat operations near Baghdad, Iraq. 

In the wake of their loss, Justin's family honored his last wishes. Since 2006, the SGT Justin Norton Memorial Scholarship has awarded nearly $61,000 to graduating seniors at Rainier and Yelm High Schools. Nearly 150 recipients have learned about Justin, his sacrifice, and are now a part of carrying on his legacy to this day.

Dog Tag Brewing Foundation is also honored and humbled to celebrate Justin's life with a Legacy Grant to the scholarship that bears his name.

For all that knew him, Justin left an unforgettable impression. "I have lead men under fire in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan," says Anthony Heisler, Justin's former platoon commander. "To this day, I have not seen another Soldier display the collected self-confidence and sense of purpose that Justin had."    

"Justin serves as a role model that inspires commitment to excellence, selfless service, and concern for mankind."

Selfless service. Commitment to duty. Love for country. Concern for others.

That is the type of man Justin Norton was. 

Amazing that a mother could see so much of her son's character and future, even when he was shirking his household chores.

Pooper scooper and all.

Thank you for everything, Justin. Here's to you!




Dog Tag Brewing Foundation is a combat Veteran-run nonprofit that partners with Gold Star Families to celebrate the lives of our nation's Fallen Warriors.

Interested in contributing to the Foundation's mission of supporting and enhancing Gold Star Family initiatives? Please take a moment and visit our Call to Action Page. Your support matters!