ADGER, AL, US
U.S. Marine Corps
GYSGT, MWHS-2, 2D MAW, MCAS CHERRY POINT, NC
10/01/2007, BAGHDAD, IRAQ
The war years have run together for Brenda Murkerson, mother of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jerome Murkerson. Was it 2003 when her son first went to Iraq, or 2004? And what was the date he returned in 2005 for his second combat tour?
She remembers Aug. 23, 2007, the date he left for his third trip to Iraq. And she will never forget Oct. 1, the day he died in combat near Baghdad.
“He had a wife and three children, and he wanted to protect that wife and those three children, as well as the rest of us,” Brenda Murkerson said through tears Oct. 2. “That was his job, and he did it well and we are proud of him.”
The Pentagon said Murkerson, 35, of Adger was killed during combat operations Oct. 1 in Anbar province, near Baghdad. The military didn’t release additional details, and Murkerson said the Pentagon hasn’t told relatives anything more.
Murkerson remembers her son as a huge Alabama fan who went to Tuscaloosa every time he could get a football ticket, dreamed of his 15-year-old son playing football for the Crimson Tide and phoned home from Iraq to make sure Auburn really lost to South Florida last month.
“He said, ‘I wanted to make sure I saw it on the Internet right,’ ” she said.
Murkerson met his wife Windy on the bus going to and from Oak Grove High School, where he graduated in 1990. He’d swipe roses for her off his mother’s bush.
“I’d say, ‘Who’d you give it to?’ and he’d just grin,” she said.
Murkerson joined the Marines right out of high school and made a career of the Corps. He went to his daughter’s dance recitals and watched his two sons play sports when he was home, but he had been in Iraq for months on end since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.
Murkerson last spoke with his family Sept. 30 using Web cameras and an Internet connection, his mother said. His wife is struggling with his death.
“I’m just thankful she got to see him,” she said.
Murkerson’s children have placed a memorial on a wall in the front office of his alma mater, Oak Grove High School. His 16-year-old son Stephen hung a picture of his father, while 13-year-old Daniel put a picture of the Bronze Star on the wall beside it and 9-year-old Kristina placed the words that describe her father’s act of bravery below the award.
“I’m proud of him,” Daniel said.
Principal Alan Pruden said their hope is that students and teachers arrive each day and see “what being an American is all about.” Murkerson was killed after leaving his covered position to help stave off enemy gunfire, which allowed an interpreter and four U.S. and Iraqi soldiers to escape.
“I just want everyone to see he was a hero and he died a hero because he saved a lot of lives that day,” said his wife, Windy, who has spoken with the Marines and the interpreter her husband helped save.