ELIZABETHTOWN, KY, USA
2LT, C COMPANY 1ST BN 34TH ARMOR REGIMENT (1ST ID), FORT RILEY, KS 66442
KHALIDIYAH, IRAQ 02/19/2004
2nd Lieutenant Jeffrey C. Graham always included the same two sentences in every e-mail he sent home from Iraq: “God, I love the Army,” and “Please pray for my platoon.”
After his younger brother committed suicide in June, the military offered 2nd Lt. Graham a stateside staff job, but he chose to go overseas.
“I couldn’t sleep at night. … There’s a war going on. I couldn’t do a desk job. My country needs me. I’m going,” Carol Graham recalled her son saying.
The 24-year-old from Elizabethtown, Ky., was leading a foot patrol February 19, 2004 in Khalidiyah, Iraq, when he was killed by an explosive. He was stationed at Fort Riley, Kan.
People who knew Jeff Graham aren’t the least bit surprised the graduate of Brooke Point High School in Stafford County, VA is being heralded as a hero.
The group – 18 soldiers, an Iraqi translator and an Iraqi policeman – were crossing a bridge about 50 miles west of Baghdad. Jeff spotted an explosive taped to a guardrail, said his aunt, Sandra Bush of Frankfort, Ky. He put up his hand to stop the others, who were walking in single file, and looked back to check on them. The bomb detonated, killing Jeff, another soldier and the two Iraqis. His warning probably saved the lives of several others, his aunt said. Army officials who contacted the family said Jeffrey Graham was a hero. “That’s just like him, that really is,” said Kathy Hilleary, a Brooke Point guidance counselor. “He was always that kind of kid.”
A high school golfer and avid basketball fan, Jeff was remembered by friends and teachers as energetic and giving. “He was just very considerate, and when you were talking to him, you were important, and you could tell that,” said high school classmate Melissa Maddox.
Before his deployment, Jeff had planned to marry Stacey Martinez. He gave her a toy bear that still plays his recorded message: “I’m safe and I’ll be home soon.”
“I kept thinking that Jeff was going to come home safely,” Martinez said. “There was no way that God was going to let that family lose another son.”
Jeff was a former leader of UK’s Pershing Rifle’s drill team and a member of the Baptist faith. He has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart posthumously. Jeffrey was the son of Mark and Carol Shroat Graham, Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Other survivors include a sister, Melanie Graham, his fiancée, Stacey Brook Martinez, maternal grandmother, Mrs. Carl Shroat, paternal grandparents, Bill and Pat Conrad, maternal great-grandmother, Mrs. Jack Gardner, and paternal great-grandmother, Mrs. Athel Padfield.