“Greater love has no one than this; that one lay down his life for one’s friends.”
~ John 15:13
My husband and I had just taken a seat at Big Daddy’s Barbecue for one last medical platoon get-together when I met him.
As I played with the straw in my water glass and pretended not to hear the crude jokes being told at the next table, Jeremy Loveless approached me and grabbed a chair nearby.
“How are you doing? I’m Jeremy,” he said as he offered his hand. “I’m new to the platoon.”
I remember noticing his eyes. They were beautiful and blue and the kind that actually smiled when they met yours, as if to say, “No really, I mean it when I say it is nice to meet you.”
He sat down at our table, and we chatted with the other guys throughout dinner as I got to know a little about Jeremy — about where he lived in Oregon, about his passion as a volunteer firefighter, about his short two months in Fairbanks thus far. He told me about his wife and little girl, and he asked me to add them to my email list so that they could remain in the loop even from Oregon, where they were staying throughout the deployment. And when it was time to say goodbye, that man gave me a hug and asked me just one thing: “Please take care of my wife.”
Those were the last words I ever heard from him.
Jeremy Loveless was killed by small arms fire in Iraq on Memorial Day Monday 2006. He was only 25.
When my husband, Jeremy’s medical platoon leader, entered his room at the forward operating base to inventory his belongings, he found exactly what I would expect from this man who so touched me back in August: a large picture of his wife, Melissa, and little girl, Chloe, blown up and hanging on his wall.
As I promised I would so many months before, I called Melissa the day I heard the news, expecting to find a woman falling apart and completely beside herself after losing the most important man in her life. But the woman who picked up the phone on the other end was one with incredible God-given strength and poise, one completely comforted by the lifetime of love her husband left her.
She told me how, even after six years of marriage and in the middle of a large pile of dishes, Jeremy would ask her to drop the chores and sit on the couch and let him hold her. “The dishes can wait,” he would tell her as he grabbed her hand.
She shared stories about Jeremy’s adventurous side — how he would spontaneously grab Chloe and tell her to jump in the car and whisk the two of them off bowling or to the beach, or to some other exciting location, if only for the day.
She told me about how Jeremy would graciously satisfy her addiction for pictures by regularly dressing up and heading to the family portrait studio without a complaint or a frown, and how he’d make it a point to kiss her and Chloe and tell them he loved them before he ever left the house on a firefighter call.
Three days before he was killed, he told Melissa, who is to this day my dear friend, that he didn’t want to have to settle for talking on the phone anymore, that he wanted to hold her and talk to her in person instead. She told him she needed him to keep calling. And he did — all three days in a row before he died. His last words to her were “I love you.”
This Memorial Day, one decade after losing this man whose loss made such an impact on my life, I will remember Jeremy by these three trademark words. Our family will run three miles with wear blue: run to remember in his honor, and we’ll set our traditional memorial table with black napkins and roses and salt and lemons — as we leave an empty chair at that table in his, and all our fallen heroes’, memory.
And every day, when I want to honor him, to truly remember the sacrifice he made, I will simply love others the way he loved his family.
Like Jeremy himself, that kind of love leaves a legacy that can never be forgotten.
Want to honor CPL Jeremy Loveless and all our fallen heroes this Memorial Day? These are just a few ways you can include the entire family in a meaningful Memorial Day celebration.