ALBUQUERQUE, NM, USA U.S. Army SPC, A TROOP, 1ST SQ, 4TH CAV, 1ST ID, APO AE (SCHWEINFURT, GERMANY) AD DUILAYAH, IRAQ 11/27/2004
Specialist Jeremy E. Christensen of Albuquerque entered the Army months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, ready to sacrifice his life for his country, a close friend said Tuesday.
The 27-year-old soldier was killed Saturday when a homemade bomb was detonated near his patrol vehicle in Duilayah, Iraq.
“He was a brave guy, and he even told me that if something happens to him while he’s in the military at least he was dying for his country,” friend Gerri Jimenez said Tuesday, her voice cracking with emotion. Christensen moved to Albuquerque from Portland to work as the office manager for a bail bonds company, Jimenez said. Jimenez’s brother worked at the Albuquerque firm, and she and Christensen struck up a close friendship.
“He was a workaholic,” she said. “He wanted to do a good job. He always did a good job.”
Friends and family say Specialist Jeremy E. Christensen wasn’t one for telling war stories. They said the 27-year-old didn’t want to celebrate his deeds or cause others to worry. At Tuesday’s funeral at the New Hope Community Church, Staff Sergeant Mike Sampsell was able to describe the heroics of Christensen, who was killed Nov. 27 in Duluiyah, Iraq, when his tank was destroyed by a roadside bomb.
The men met in March 2002, not long after Christensen, previously an Oregon National Guardsman, decided to re-enlist, motivated by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Christensen was a few years older than the other soldiers in the Anvil Troop of the 1st Squadron, 4th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, and his maturity and easygoing temperament stood out, Sampsell said.
“The entire time that I knew him, I never heard him once complain about anything,” Sampsell said. “It made him very easy to get along with.”
The training didn’t prepare the men for the poor, torn-up areas they patrolled, often meeting children with little to eat or drink, Sampsell said.
“Jeremy was always good to the children,” Sampsell said. “You could see that he genuinely cared, felt sorry for them, and that he wanted to help. The only thing he cared more about was the safety of his fellow soldier.”
In May, Sampsell was patrolling on foot with three other soldiers in Duluiyah. Crossing an intersection, they came under intense fire from machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. The group’s only cover was a curb. Sampsell radioed for help and got an answer from Christensen’s tank.
“As they approached, I could see Jeremy in the loader’s hatch manning the M240 machine gun,” Sampsell said. “I pointed out the direction of the enemy, and Jeremy immediately took them under fire. He was standing in the hatch the entire time, completely exposed to enemy fire, but he did not budge.”
Without Christensen, “Every member of my team would have been wounded or possibly killed,” Sampsell said. “He saved our lives that day, while disregarding his own safety.”
During the firefight, Christensen’s arm was “zinged” by a bullet – a skin wound that he later told his family was a reaction to a vaccination.
Later Tuesday, at the Willamette National Cemetery, friends and family stood silently as the honor guard fired a salute. Governor Ted Kulongoski, who honored Christensen as “the very best Oregon had to offer,” kneeled to give his mother a state flag. Silently, she stroked it, along with his medals, a Purple Heart for being wounded in action and a Bronze Star for valor.