RIDGEWAY, OH, USA U.S. Army SGT, COMPANY B, 612TH ENGINEER BATTALION (MNCI) TIFFIN, OH BAGHDAD, IRAQ 10/10/2005
Driving was a passion for Jeremy M. Hodge, a devoted fan of NASCAR driver Mark Martin. Being in Iraq couldn’t stop his addiction.
“I hear he stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to watch the race when he was in Iraq,” said Tim Sheer, pastor of the Ridgeway Church of Christ, during a eulogy.
Hodge, 20, of Ridgeway, Ohio, was killed Oct. 10 by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. He was based at Tiffin. Hodge graduated in 2003 high school, where he was on the baseball, football and track teams, and participated in choir and musicals. He loved four-wheeling, motorcycles, hunting and fishing.
“He was a well-liked kid who didn’t have a bad bone in his body. He had the biggest heart you’d want to know,” said Scott Gillfillen, who was Hodge’s high school baseball coach.
Hodge’s positive outlook was evident in all he did. “If Jeremy was sitting on the bench, he wasn’t pouting. He was cheering on his teammates and helping encourage them,” Ridgemont Principal Chad Cunningham said.
In October 2005, members of Company B of the Ohio-based 612th Engineer Battalion lost one of their own. Over the past several years, the Task Force Iron Claw Academy, or TFICA, has been conducting classes inside of a schoolhouse at Camp Liberty, named in memory of the Soldier: “Hodge Hall.”
TFICA has been responsible for training U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces about how to identify and safely respond to IEDs that are discovered on route-clearance missions.As the responsible drawdown of forces continues, and the ISF become capable of executing independent route-clearance missions, the academy has closed its doors and the sign proclaiming it “Hodge Hall” has been taken down and will eventually be presented to Hodges’ family.
“I think it is important to honor him and his sacrifice,” said 1st Lieutenant Craig Smith, former officer in charge of the academy. “It also sent a clear message to the students, that they have a very tough and dangerous mission, and they had better take it seriously.”
Smith is honored to be presenting the sign to the Hodge Family.
“The Hodges had to bear what no parent should have to. I would hope that they realize that Jeremy has not been forgotten, nor the sacrifice that he made. Every U.S. Soldier that came through TFICA saw that sign and learned about Jeremy.”
The Soldiers who were responsible for the removal and preservation of the Hodge Hall sign were keenly aware of its meaning and where the sign was headed.
“It was an honor to be able to have a part in getting the sign down,” said Specialist Scott Vaughan, of Belding, Mich.
Once the 16th Engineer Brigade, Hodge’s former brigade headquarters, completes its deployment, the sign will leave Iraq and be presented to Hodges’ mother and step-father, Michelle and Steve Norris, during a fallen Soldier memorial service. The idea for the personal exchange was suggested by Brigadier General Glenn C. Hammond III, the current commander of the 16th Engineer Brigade.
“We’re giving the family a memorial that they can put up somewhere … It is an honor to take the sign home with us when we leave here,” Hammond said.
Hodge Hall may no longer display Sergeant Jeremy Hodge’s name, but his legacy will continue on in the hearts and minds of the Soldiers who followed in his footsteps.