Kansas City, Kan. Retired Col. James Trafton spent 37 years serving his country in the U.S. Army and National Guard. Having retired in 2007, Trafton spent the last few years in a more relaxed way, enjoying time with his family and outdoor activities.
But his life was cut short at the age of 58 on Sunday, following a motorcycle and car accident on the Kansas Turnpike.
Trafton was riding his 2008 Harley Davidson at the time of the crash, about 8 p.m. Sunday.
The motorcycle was a hobby he dearly loved and something he took seriously.
“He was 58 years old and doing something he enjoyed and was safe and tried to do everything right with his helmet and leather,” said Jeff Krafels, Trafton’s son-in-law. “To have this happen over such a senseless, silly thing is tough for the family.”
In May 1971, Trafton began his military career at the bottom rung of the ladder. He was a private serving in a recon infantry platoon with the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. After the war he joined the Kansas Army National Guard, and rose to the rank of colonel. In 2006 he led a battalion to Iraq.
Trafton earned myriad awards through the years, including two Combat Infantryman’s Badges. One was awarded as an infantry enlisted soldier in Vietnam and the second award (star) came when he was the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 137th Infantry Regiment in Iraq, serving under the 4th Infantry Division.
Upon his retirement from the service, Trafton signed on as a contractor with the Kansas National Guard. He also spent more time hunting and fishing and enjoying the company of his family — wife Theresa Trafton and daughters Sonia Krafels, Susan Trafton, Maegan Trafton and Elizabeth Trafton.
“Sonia and I laugh that I had never seen him without a buzz cut, and after he took that job he let it go out and his demeanor had really changed; he was enjoying retirement,” Jeff Krafels said.
Trafton touched many lives over the years, and will be remembered as a friend and a hero. His immediate and extended family will never forget his smile or the support he lent to them during good times and bad.
“He was offering assistance whether it was just being there or financial,” Jeff Krafels said. “Whatever he could do to help them out … it’s just hard on them, it’s devastating.”
Services for Trafton will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Mary-St. Anthony Catholic Church, 615 N. Seventh St., Kansas City, KS 66101. Burial will follow at 12:30 p.m., at Leavenworth National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorial contributions to the Fraternal Order of Eagles in care of the Wyandotte Auxiliary 87 for the Diabetes Research Center.