Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Army Spc. Jesse D. Reed

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Jesse D. Reed, 26, of Orefield, Pa.

Spc. Reed was assigned to the 27th Engineer Battalion (Combat Airborne), 20th Engineer Brigade (Combat), Fort Bragg, N.C.; died July 14, 2010 in Zabul province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his military vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Spc. Chase Stanley, Spc. Matthew J. Johnson and Sgt. Zachary M. Fisher.

Spc. Jesse D. Reed, 26, of Orefield, Penn., enlisted in the Army in 2008 and was assigned to the 618th Eng. Spt. Co. He served as an engineer equipment operator and MRAP operator during route clearance operations. He served on one deployment to Afghanistan.

“His aggressiveness and intelligence showed what it meant to be an airborne soldier,” said Capt. Steven Holmberg, commander of the 618th Engineer Company. “Spc. Reed could be counted on to succeed when it counted and under the hardest conditions.”

Reed’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge and Driver Badge with Driver Wheeled Vehicles.

ALLENTOWN, Pa.—A soldier from eastern Pennsylvania has died in Afghanistan in an attack that seriously injured his best friend from high school.
Jesse Reed and Adam Keys graduated from Whitehall High School together in 2002, shared a passion for Tom Petty concerts and endured several years of bad New York Jets football together, so it surprised no one when they enlisted in the Army together in 2008.

The two Army specialists were together again Wednesday when their convoy hit a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan. Reed, 26, was killed and Keyes, 25, was seriously injured.

"It was always a comfort that they were over there together. I knew if there was a problem, they would lean on each other," said Keys' wife, Rosie Keys of North Whitehall Township. "Now my husband is in critical condition and I feel like I've lost my best friend." (please note: Adam Keys' condition has been upgraded to stable)

That was the thing about Reed, friends say. He was every one's best friend, and that's why he was in Afghanistan searching for roadside bombs on a route-clearing mission, said his wife, Heather Reed.

Reed and Keys -- inseparable friends who played football together at Whitehall High -- were heavy equipment operators fortunate enough to end up together at Fort Bragg, N.C., in the 618th Engineer Company. But Reed was in the 2nd Platoon and Keys in the 3rd Platoon, Heather Reed said. So when the 3rd was scheduled for deployment last December and the 2nd wasn't, Reed asked to be transferred to the 3rd so he could fight alongside Keys.

Since December, the two have bunked together in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, Reed became the 31st person with ties to the Lehigh Valley region to die in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Keys only narrowly avoided becoming the 32nd.

So far this month, 45 coalition troops have died in Afghanistan, 33 of them Americans. Wednesday was a particularly deadly day -- eight Americans died. As of late Thursday, the Department of Defense had not confirmed Reed as being among the deaths, but had released information about an attack in which four American soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb Wednesday in southern Afghanistan.

Family members were notified of Reed's death late Wednesday, and Rosie Keys learned early Thursday that her husband, who is godfather of Reed's 10-month-old son Dylan, suffered broken bones, lacerations and a serious eye injury. As of Thursday, he is in stable condition, Rosie Keys said.

While Rosie Keys said she expected her husband to be moved to a hospital in Germany, Heather Reed was heading to Dover Air Force Base, Del., where her husband's body was due to arrive early Friday morning.

"Jesse thought he could make a bigger difference in Afghanistan and he wanted to be with Adam," Heather Reed said. "They're so much alike. It's probably why they're such close friends."

After living in Berks County until he was 10, Reed moved to Whitehall Township with his mother, Dolores, said Dolores Reed, who now lives in Allentown. Friends say he was the kind of guy people tended to like instantly -- someone who seemed to become the adopted son of a half-dozen families.

If someone needed a ride home from a night of too much partying, Reed would drop everything without thinking. And when his friend Brent Harding's mother said she couldn't afford to repair the deck to her Whitehall home, it was Reed who showed up with tools and wood, and then worked for weeks to help rebuild it.

"He'd have laid in traffic if he thought he was helping a friend," Harding said. "When I told my mom what happened, she broke down as if he was her son."

After high school, Reed drifted between construction jobs, often jokingly wearing a hard hat with the words "I'm a mess" stenciled on it. Friends from the Hokendauqua Fire Company say he'd sometimes party too much, and they laughed as they recalled the 2 a.m. phone call they got a few years ago, in which Reed said he got lost while walking though a cornfield.

Though he was always the life of the party, the one guy in the group of about eight close friends who seemed to have a knack for making everyone laugh, Reed would suddenly get serious when he talked about how he'd yet to find someone to share his life with the way most of his friends had.

"He was this happy guy with a big laugh. There was never a dull moment with him around," said friend Adam Glose of Whitehall. "But all he really wanted was to be a family man."

After years in which he said he was admittedly drifting, friends say Reed said he finally found his direction two years ago when he met Heather. By the summer of 2008, he'd decided to enlist in the Army. His mother was worried, but he did his best to calm her fears.

"This is what I was meant to do," Dolores Reed recalled him saying, as she was overcome by emotion Thursday. "Don't worry, Mom, I've finally found my place in life."

In September 2009, Heather gave birth to Dylan, and along with Heather's 5-year-old daughter, Briana, Reed finally found the family he wanted. They lived in a home at Fort Bragg. Soon after Reed was deployed in December, he learned that Heather was pregnant again, and he was looking forward to taking a two-week leave Aug. 26 so he could witness the birth of his second son.

On Tuesday, the day before his convoy hit that roadside bomb, Reed and his wife talked and decided the new baby's name would be Connor.

It's a decision Heather Reed says she will not honor.

"I changed my mind yesterday," Heather Reed said. "His name will be Jesse David Reed."

Comment from a childhood friend -- To Jesse, no words can express the amount of respect and gratitude I have for our servicemen and women. You truly are a hometown hero and will be deeply missed. Your spirit was bigger than life and you never hesitated to help others. In all the pictures and articles posted, it is easy to see that you had a passion and love for your family and country. Jesse your spirit and passion will live on in the hearts of your beautiful wife, children, family and closest friends. While here, you touched many lives and you will never be forgotten. To Heather, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. I first met Jesse in 4th grade and later graduated high school with him. He will always be a hero in my heart! Corrine

Spc. Reed is survived by his wife Heather, son Dylan 10 months, unborn son due in August and a step daughter Briana 5, his mother Dolores Reed of Allentown, PA and his father David R. Reed of NJ.

Army Spc. Jesse D. Reed was killed in action on 7/14/10.

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