Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marine Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary, 27, of Columbus, Ind.

Sgt. McQueary was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Feb. 18, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Sgt. Jeremy McQueary’s wife, Rae, spoke with 24-Hour News 8's Phil Sanchez on Sunday. She said her husband was just two months away from coming home when he was killed.

“He just had a smile that made you feel safe and made you feel whole." McQueary said.

“I just wish time could lapse and I could be 75 and ready to die so I could be with him.” McQueary added.

The couple grew up in Columbus but made Nashville their home.

Jeremy McQueary joined the Marines at 18 and did two tours of duty in Iraq.

“I've been with him since I was 17, it was forever in my mind, you know, almost a decade.” She said.

Rae McQueary last spoke to her husband two weeks ago. It had been five months since they last saw each other; when their son Hadley was born.

“I promised him that if anything ever did happen, I would show our son the amazing person that he was and the amazing things that he did.”

Sgt. McQueary’s body will be brought back to Indiana this week, and a memorial is scheduled for later in the week.

"It's still kind of hard to believe that it's him. I have not seen a body," Rae McQueary told WRTV, a CBS News affiliate in Columbus, Indiana. "In my heart, I just want to believe that it's not real."

WRTV reports that Jeremy McQueary was last home for Hadley's birth.

Rae McQueary had gotten a tattoo of the number "18" to surprise her husband at his scheduled homecoming in two months. It stands for the day of the month they got married.

Now it also stands for the day he died: Feb. 18, 2010.

The Republic in Columbus reported McQueary was the son of Deborah Kleinschmidt and the late Dallas McQueary and the brother of Rebecca Willison. He was married to Rae McQueary of Brown County and had a 5-month-old son, Hadley.

McQueary's mother and stepfather, David Kleinschmidt, traveled Friday to Dover, Del., for the dignified transfer ceremony for McQueary's body.

David Kleinschmidt said the family knew limited information about McQueary's death, but said McQueary was outside of his vehicle when he was hit by an improvised explosive device.

The last time McQueary spoke to his mother and stepfather, he told them he was serving in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

The province, including the town of Marja, was the site of a recent battle against Taliban forces.

McQueary was serving his first tour in Afghanistan. He previously had served two tours in Iraq, his family said.

He enlisted with the Marines in January 2002, following his early graduation from Columbus East High School.

McQueary's mother, Deborah, said the family has a strong heritage of military veterans, and McQueary always expressed interest in becoming a Marine.

His sister, Rebecca, said McQueary felt a strong desire to help people, inspired by his father's work as a Bartholomew County Sheriff's reserve deputy.

The death of McQueary's father in 1992, when McQueary was 9, amplified his desire to serve others.

Jeremy McQueary considered a new career, including law enforcement, before re-enlisting with the Marines, and he decided to stay in the military because it was the right fit, Willison said.

McQueary received a Combat Action Ribbon and other service decorations. The family has been told McQueary will receive a Purple Heart, Willison said. McQueary survived a roadside bomb in June 2008 when his Humvee was hit in Iraq. He chose to go back to Iraq after the incident.

"He's a leader," Willison said. "He always volunteered to help others." She said her brother had a soft spot for children and often talked about working with children in Iraq.

Willison recalled McQueary's beaming smile in a photo of him holding his niece. McQueary's young son took after his dad, David Kleinschmidt said. "He looks a lot like him," Kleinschmidt said.

Marine Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary was killed in action on 2/18/10.

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