It has been said that children are very perceptive. They know “special” when they see it. And the kids who flocked to Jordan Morris when he was on a mission trip to Chicago just a few years ago knew they had found someone with that quality.

The students on that trip were helping kids with their homework, and all the kids wanted Jordan to be the one to help them, said mission trip leader Dan Bell. Maybe it’s because they sensed Jordan was academically and intellectually talented and gifted, or perhaps it was his friendliness, his sense of humor or his knack of bringing a smile to everyone’s face.

But children aren’t the only ones who found Jordan to be that special person. His parents, friends and teachers in Ripley, where he graduated as a valedictorian, also saw and appreciated the kind of individual he was.

“He was a smart boy,” said his proud father, Brett. “On achievement tests, his scores were always up in the 98-99 percentile range. He figured out for himself that everybody needs to be good at something, and his intelligence was going to be his ticket to making it in life.”

Unfortunately, that life was cut short when Jordan, 23, and four other soldiers died when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Kandahar province in Afghanistan on Aug. 11.

Jordan, who attended West Point, had been in Afghanistan since June on a one-year assignment. He belonged to the first Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, N.Y.

Jordan’s father, along with his mother, Nita, are both graduates of Oklahoma State University, and said they were surprised when Jordan told them he wanted to go to West Point.

“I knew it was the U.S. Military Academy, but I had no idea where it was located,” said Brett. “But West Point is a prestigious university, it’s not easy to get into, they have high standards and their graduates are well recognized and don’t have trouble getting a job.”

Brett said Jordan wanted to major in mechanical engineering, and West Point has a highly acclaimed engineering school.

Brett noted that Jordan was not a typical teenage boy.

“He knew what he wanted and he worked for it,” Brett revealed. “He never made anything below an A in public school.”

He added that Jordan was on Ripley’s baseball team, and because of practice, got home late at night and stayed up and completed his homework assignments while the rest of the family slept.

“He wasn’t on the starting team, so the thing to do would have been to quit the team, get his homework done at a reasonable hour and not stress out his life,” his father said. “But that is not who he was. He wanted to be with his friends on the team.”

Ripley High School principal Les Tilley, a member of Stillwater, Eagle Heights, said Jordan was a great influence on the baseball team.

“He was one of those kids you love to have on the bus, in the dugout and at practice because he was always so positive.”

Jordan came to know Christ as a 10-year-old boy while attending the Nazarene Church. His mother grew up at Tulsa, Garnett Road, and his father was a member of the Church of Christ. After their marriage, they started attending the Nazarene Church in Sayre, where they were living. After moving to Stillwater, they continued in the Nazarene Church until Jordan became a teenager.

“At that time, we wanted him to be involved in an active youth group, and found one at Stillwater, Hillcrest,” Brett said. “Jordan had gone to Nazarene youth camps, but his mother, who attended Falls Creek as a youth, wanted Jordan to have that experience, and she arranged for him to go to Falls Creek with his cousins who attended Garnett Road.”

His first trip to Falls Creek was during the time of raising money for the new tabernacle. Jordan was convicted he needed to be a part of that, so he came home, and although he didn’t have a job, he raised $100 to send to the project, while he was still a member of the Nazarene church.

Before Jordan reported to Fort Benning last January, he was home for a brief period, and got involved in Hillcrest’s Mission Stillwater.

“This is a once-a-month project we do with our college students,” explained Hillcrest pastor John Dickey. “Jordan and his friends found a single, older lady whose back porch had fallen apart. Jordan took it upon himself to raise the funds and find donated lumber to rebuild this woman’s porch.”

Ripley’s High School superintendent Kenny Beams said Jordan was one of those kids that if you are a mother, father or teacher, you always hoped you would have as a son or a student.

“He was pretty special, just a super kid,” Beams said. “Jordan had that knack that could lighten up about any situation. He was a little bit of a prankster, but nothing that was ever a problem.”

To illustrate, Beams said he recalled Jordan and his date coming to a school prom wearing outfits made totally of duct tape.

“I think they were trying to win a contest,” he said. “He was a funny kid.”

Both Beams and Tilley noted that Jordan was the first student at Ripley to be accepted into the Oklahoma School of Science and Math at the Drumright campus at Central Tech, a two-year program that features physics, chemistry and upper-level math courses.

“It’s a challenging academic math and science program that was good preparation for West Point,” said Beams.

Tilley said Jordan was the kind of student every school wants.

“If we had students like him every day, the sky’s the limit,” he said. “They pretty much set their goals and you just guide them and help them get there.”

Tilley commented that while the atmosphere around the school is somber, most of the students are acquainted with Jordan through his younger brothers, Levi, a junior, and Jesse, a second grader.

He said students in Jesse’s class wrote him letters, which were delivered to him by his teacher.

“Although the students may not have had the blessing of knowing Jordan first hand, they know the family and the things that go along with what Jordan stood for,” Tilley said. “Jordan was a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, and it is a relief to know he is with God.”

Dickey, commenting on what a great young man Jordan was, said, “I know where his destiny is. He’s with Jesus. He was committed to the Lord, loved his country and always had a smile on his face. He was full of compassion, full of love and loved to help people.”

Tilley said Jordan’s death is such a tragedy because he was such a stellar young man.

“He knew what he wanted and where he wanted to go, and that was where he was headed,” Tilley pointed out.

Jordan’s awards and decorations include the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Following his death, his family was presented with a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal.

Funeral services were Aug. 20 at Stillwater High School Performing Arts Center.

“Some years down the road, we’ll be able to remember Jordan, and it won’t hurt so much,” said Beams. “But right now it does.”