For many married couples, there are few things more rewarding than starting a family. Jason Shipton could certainly relate to that, as he and his wife welcomed three children into the world. However, ahead of the birth of their third son in 2011 the marine received some devastating news.
Born in March 1981 Shipton’s childhood was spent in a number of different places around Wyoming. Indeed, alongside his parents Roger and Claudia Shipton, the youngster moved from Lander to Fort Washakie, before relocating to Alaska. From there, he eventually headed back to his home state, moving to the city of Casper.
As a child, Shipton loved the great outdoors, which, in a way, foreshadowed his future career choice. Before that, though, he studied at Casper’s Natrona County High School, eventually graduating in 1999. At that point, the teenager looked to continue his education at college.
Indeed, following his stint at high school, Shipton moved states again to become a student at Oklahoma Christian University. When it was founded back in 1950 the college consisted of just three buildings, before eventually expanding to a campus of around 200 acres. During his time there, the Wyoming native made a decision that changed his life forever.
In 2002 Shipton joined the United States Marine Corps, where he eventually reached the rank of staff sergeant. The well-traveled serviceman was deployed four times throughout his career, heading to both Afghanistan and Iraq. Ahead of his second deployment in 2004 though, he celebrated one of the happiest days of his life.
Shipton was just 12 years old when he met a girl named Amanda during a visit to church. After that, the pair became good friends, before their relationship developed into something more serious. With that in mind, they confirmed their engagement in June 2004.
Just some six weeks later, Shipton and Amanda got married in July 2004. “It may have seemed rushed,” the latter’s sister, Meagan Dye, wrote on GoFundMe. “But they decided if they were going to live life with so much uncertainty that the military can bring, they were going to live their life with nothing unsaid.”
On that note, Amanda joined her husband as he traveled around the U.S. with the Marine Corps. She was there to see Shipton off on his deployments, fully aware of the risks. “We both knew that he would face combat and that not everyone that left was coming home,” she told the Casper Star-Tribune newspaper.
But despite the dangers Shipton faced as a marine, he and Amanda decided to start a family in the mid-2000s. Before long, they became the proud parents of sons, Caiden and Hudson, with a third due in 2011. Unfortunately, though, everything changed during that period.
Several weeks into Amanda’s pregnancy, Shipton suffered a seizure while he was at work. As a result of that, the staff sergeant underwent some tests to determine the cause. Sadly, it was discovered that he had a brain tumor.
Due to its malignancy, Shipton went through an operation to remove the tumor, before starting his year-long treatment. The dad endured radiation therapy and chemotherapy during that period, as he tried to get better. However, the prognosis was far from promising, with doctors believing that the tumor would return in five or so years.
With that in mind, Shipton visited the hospital every three months for an MRI scan, as his physicians kept watch over his condition. He eventually retired from the marines on health grounds in 2013 – bringing an end to a decade of service. At that point, he then returned to Casper with his young family.
Despite the continued concern for his health, Shipton started a new job at Baker Hughes, a large international oil company. As time continued to progress, though, the dad surpassed his original prognosis. Indeed, the tumor showed no immediate signs of returning within the five years.
However, Shipton and Amanda remained extremely cautious at that time. “We kind of passed that five-year mark and were just very hopeful that maybe he was that small percentage that it wouldn’t come back,” she told the Casper Star-Tribune. “But we always knew that the odds of it coming back were very high.”
Unfortunately, the couple’s fears came to fruition in October 2017 as Jason’s tumor returned. Much like before, the retired marine underwent some vigorous treatment to fight off the cancer, including clinical trials. “They left no stone unturned,” as Meagan Dye, put it on GoFundMe in October 2018.
“They did everything to meet this aggressive cancer with just as aggressive of a fight, as any marine would do in battle,” Dye continued. “Their faith, which has always been a center to their lives, only grew stronger. Jason faced this battle with a smile on his face and a calm assurance that God’s plan, no matter how it ends, is always good.”
However, after a year-long battle, the cancer started to take its toll on Shipton. As he continued to fight the tumor, Amanda then took to Facebook to release her pent-up emotions in October 2018. Heartbroken by the situation, she spoke about her family’s struggles since the original diagnosis back in 2011.
“My husband has cancer,” Amanda wrote on the social media website. “We are only in our 30s. We have three little boys. These three sentences have been our life the last seven years of our life. The last year has been the hardest of my life. My husband is losing that battle and I can’t find words to describe my pain and sadness.”
At that point, the mom-of-three showcased some admirable defiance. “Those three sentences do not define our life though,” Amanda continued. “We have had so much joy, love and laughter in those seven years that the memories made will carry me through a lifetime.”
While Amanda continued to look for the positives, though, she then focused her attention on their three young children. Concerned that she couldn’t help her boys through this tough period, she revealed her long-term hopes for the future.
“It breaks my heart as a mother that I can’t take the pain away from my sweet boys who are just too young to face such hard things,” Amanda wrote. “But I can pray. I pray that this shapes who they will become as men and make them better.”
“I can pray that it makes me better for them,” Amanda continued. “That they see the adversity life has thrown at us and have an example of how to handle it with dignity, grace and perseverance. I want them to know that even in the hard [times] there will be moments everyday that make you smile.”
From there, Amanda touched upon some of the important feelings that she hoped to retain in the following years. “I don’t want to lose my joy or my dreams,” the mom wrote on Facebook. “I want [the children] to see someone who kept dreaming, kept loving, kept laughing even when life got hard.”
On that note, Amanda concluded her powerful post with a heartfelt message about the three boys. “They are my heart,” she wrote. “They are my why.” Her words clearly resonated on social media, as online users flocked to offer their love and support for the family.
Indeed, Amanda’s post earned close to 300 likes on Facebook, while also generating over 100 comments. “Amanda, I am so so sorry to hear this,” wrote one woman. “Shipton was a good friend of mine in college. I will be praying for you both and your beautiful family.”
Those feelings were reiterated by another user, who also hailed Amanda’s attitude to the situation. “Amanda, my heart feels your breaking heart,” this person wrote in the comments section. “What a beautiful strong gal you are to be so intentional in the way you walk through this trial.”
“I will be praying for you and Jason and your three fine boys,” the commenter added. “May your remaining time all together be [a] pure gift, filled with God’s grace, love, and peace beyond understanding for each of you.” The kind comments didn’t end there, though.
Indeed, a friend of the family also offered their support to the mom-of-three and her husband. “Amanda, you [are] my friend [and] my hero,” wrote another sympathizer. “You face this extremely difficult time with strength and grace. You are an amazing faithful woman, wife and mother.”
“You all are continually in our prayers,” this woman added. “We love you all so very much.” Despite all the well-wishes, though, Shipton sadly succumbed to his cancer on October 28, 2018. Aged just 37 the retired marine left behind his parents, sister and his many in-laws, as well as Amanda and the children.
The day after Shipton’s passing, Amanda went back on social media to confirm the sad news to her friends and followers. However, while the mom was still clearly devastated, she bravely wrote a loving tribute to her husband, hailing his fighting spirit.
“My heart is broken, I feel lost,” Amanda wrote on Facebook. “I look in the faces of our boys and my heart breaks even more, but I feel a little less lost. They are my why. They will give me a strength to carry on.” She then touched upon her relationship with Jason throughout the years.
“We wrote a beautiful love story,” Amanda continued. “[Jason] made me happier than I even knew I could be, and the gift of his love is the greatest gift I have ever known. It will continue to comfort me and carry me on.”
The touching tribute didn’t end there, as Amanda also praised Shipton’s work as father to their three sons. “My boys will always have the gift of waking each morning having called this man ‘daddy’ and knowing their dad was a hero in so many ways, but especially to us,” she wrote.
“[Shipton’s] fight was good and he has finished his race,” Amanda added. “Now we must continue on ours. One day at a time. One step at a time.” Much like her previous post, the mom’s words left a mark on Facebook. Indeed, the tribute earned over 800 likes and close to 100 shares, while hundreds more paid their respects in the comments section.
Shipton’s funeral took place at the Casper Church of Christ. Due to his time with the Marine Corps, the 37-year-old was buried at Oregon Trail Veteran’s Cemetery. He received military honors.
A couple of days after the service, Amanda reflected on the immediate aftermath for her family. As one of her sons broke down in tears following Shipton’s burial, she struggled to find the words that would comfort him. However, the grieving mom eventually offered them a reassuring message.
“All I can tell my boys and my own heart is God is still right here, and near to us on this rough road,” Amanda wrote on Facebook in November 2018. “I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I don’t know when it all won’t hurt so bad.”
“I don’t even know where to start,” Amanda added. “But I do know God will help us write this chapter. He is here. He is near. And if that’s all we know right now, that’s enough to lean into and trust in.” While she tried to navigate her children through the grieving process, someone else looked to help them out in a different way.
Indeed, Amanda’s sister Meagan Dye decided to set up a GoFundMe page for her family. By this point, Jason’s VA benefits had stopped coming in. After putting everything in place, she then made a heartfelt plea to their local community about the Shiptons’ financial situation.
“[Shipton] gave a lot for this country, and this is the least that we can do for him,” Dye told KCWY-DT. “He was the rock for his family, and if we can do this little bit to help his family get by… right now… so that my sister can eventually be that rock for her boys.” The GoFundMe page has since raised close to $30,000.