A Fallen Hero

 

Written by Dena A. Edwards in the September 2011 Issue

On August 11, amidst the first downpour of rain Edmond had seen all summer, Second Lieutenant Jered W. Ewy was laid to rest.

Henderson Hills Baptist Church resonated with peals of rolling thunder as full military honors were given to the fallen soldier, who was killed July 29 in Afghanistan during his third tour of duty. The funeral service was conducted as Jered lived his life — with honor, dignity and some humor. Multiple awards were bestowed upon his family on his behalf and given by top military officials and Governor Mary Fallin. Stories and photos of Jered’s life reminded all present that this was more than a military statistic. This was someone’s husband, dad, son, brother, coach and friend. This was Jered— the guy who loved snakes, gymnastics and hunting; the man who loved his country, his wife and infant daughter.

A native Oklahoman, Jered was born June 9, 1978, and graduated from Putnam City North High School. He enlisted in 1998, to become an Army Ranger — an elite member of the U.S. Army. On September 11, 2001, he was told to pack his bags and was one of the first troops on the ground in Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks. He served two tours of duty before transferring in 2003 to the Oklahoma National Guard as an instructor so he could earn his criminal justice degree from the University of Central Oklahoma. A college degree is a requirement to become an Army officer, a feat which Jered accomplished when he graduated from Officer Candidate School in July 2010 as a second lieutenant.

His long-term plan was to retire from the military in another 10 years, to spend more time at home raising his family, and converting his hobby of raising, breeding and selling snakes and reptiles into a business. But all who knew Jered knew the military would never be far from his life or his heart.

One of the last photographs taken of Jered shows him sitting against a dirt wall in his fatigues, looking off the photo, laughing. (see cover) Fellow soldier Mike Okey was the photographer, and said what wasn’t in the photo was the group of Afghanistan children Jered was talking and laughing with.

“He was genuine and caring, and he really thought he could make a difference (in their lives),” said Megan Ewy, Jered’s wife.

During Jered’s time with the National Guard while in college, he once again joined the gymnastics world—a world in which he had competed in for many years growing up. He started coaching the beginning levels of the men’s competitive team at Oklahoma Gold Gymnastics in Edmond, working for Steve Hoehner, a man that had once been Jered’s own coach. Coach Jered immediately bonded with his team members and their families.

“He was great with the kids,” said Kristen Squires, whose two sons were on his team. “He didn’t just want to teach them gymnastics. He wanted to teach them life lessons as well.” Coach Jered taught the boys by example. He was disciplined, but he was fun. Always smiling and laughing, he would line his team up like soldiers for fitness drills. He taught them honor, and that it was honorable to serve your country.

Also on staff at Oklahoma Gold was Megan Lynn, who was one of the girls’ team coaches, and who Jered instantly fell for. Their first date marked the beginning of their lives together. They got engaged on a memorable trip to Hawaii, when Jered planned to propose in a hidden lagoon. But the lagoon was so hidden, they never found it, yet the frustrated Jered was undeterred and proposed anyway.

The couple wed June 27, 2009, and didn’t wait long to start a family. Megan dealt with the latter stages of pregnancy as Jered was in Mississippi attending pre-deployment training. Her doctor had scheduled her labor to be induced on June 9, so Jered could plan a military leave to coincide. But baby Kyla had other plans. On the afternoon of June 3, Megan’s water broke. She notified her husband immediately, but as labor was not considered an emergency, he was not instantly granted the ability to leave. Meanwhile, Megan refused any means to speed up her labor and delivery, as she wanted to give the expectant dad the time he needed to arrive. Fifteen hours later, he was on his way home, and made it to the hospital less than an hour before his precious daughter Kyla was born.

The 10-day paternity leave the soldier was granted was his oasis of happiness. The family spent time together, took family portraits together, and celebrated Jered’s 33rd birthday together.

“I am so blessed,” he wrote on his Facebook wall. “Thank you, God. I have a wonderful wife, a beautiful healthy daughter, a great family, and two awesome loyal dogs. Doesn’t get much better than that.”

Little did they know, this would be the only time the family would ever have together — the only photographs Kyla would take with her dad. Jered arrived in Afghanistan the first week in July. Megan and Jered had a Skype “date” in mid-July, and then talked on the phone on July 28. The next day Jered’s unit was attacked while on patrol by a group of insurgents with an improvised explosive device, and Jered and fellow Oklahoman Pcs. Augustus Vicari of Broken Arrow were killed.

A fellow Oklahoma National Guard member stationed in Afghanistan sent a letter to his father, telling of Ewy’s and Vicari’s send-off from the base. The soldiers had only 10 minutes of notice. “It was literally hundreds of soldiers from all over the base that had stopped everything and chose to attend the ceremony. We all snapped to attention and, like dominoes, saluted the two fallen soldiers as they passed by in the ambulance on their way to the plane that would take them home for the last time.”

Full military honors and treatment were given during the dignified transfer of Second Lt. Ewy upon his arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, and again at the Air National Guard base at Will Rogers World Airport, Oklahoma City, where the plane taxied under two sprays of water coming from a flanking pair of fire trucks. A third fire truck displayed a large flag. Megan was given a moment of silence with her husband, then a full military escort led them through two long rows of soldiers.

“They were standing shoulder to shoulder, all the way from the runway to the gate (of the airport),” Megan said. “As the hearse drove by, each one saluted, one after another.” Utmost honor was given to an honorable man, each and every step of the way, until Jered Ewy was finally laid to rest at Memorial Park Cemetery, with “Taps” playing, the echo of the 21-gun salute still ringing.

“He definitely got the respect and honor he deserved,” Megan said. “Thank you to everyone that made it possible and participated. Bringing Jered home was incredible.”

I’m coming home, I’m coming home.

Tell the world I’m coming … home.

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