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Ahead of Memorial Day, Combat Veteran Ernst Honors Iowa Heroes, Gold Star Families

WASHINGTON—Ahead of Memorial Day, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the first female combat veteran elected to the United States Senate, spoke on the Senate floor to pay tribute to fallen servicemembers and Gold Star Families in Iowa and across the country. Ernst noted that Iowa has lost sons and daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Panama and Grenada, in the first Persian Gulf War, in Vietnam, in Korea, and in both World Wars. Ernst honored all Iowans who fought and died wearing our country’s uniform and specifically highlighted the lives of Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jeffrey E. Bohr Jr from Ossian, Army Sergeant James C. Kearney III from Emerson, and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jaime S. Jaenke from Iowa Falls.

Click here or on the image above to watch Senator Ernst’s remarks.

Senator Ernst’s full remarks are below:

“Just one percent of the U.S. population serves in the defense of our great nation.
“America owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to this small number of citizens who give so much to protect our freedoms and our way of life.
“May is Military Appreciation Month, so on behalf of the people of Iowa and me personally, I want to thank each and every one of the women and men of our Armed Forces, and their families.
“We may celebrate you in May, but we appreciate you every single day.
“You are the ones that we call upon to defend our nation from our foreign adversaries and rogue actors who intend to harm us.
“You are the ones we called upon when COVID-19 seeped into our borders and shut down America.
“You stood guard to ensure our way of life succeeds.
“Thank you for being the greatest fighting force on the face of the planet.
“After 23 years of my own military service, with great pride I now get to watch as my daughter soon embarks on her career as an Army Officer.
“Libby, thank you for your willingness to serve and the sacrifices you have committed to.
“While serving in the military is one of the most rewarding experiences, it is not easy.
“As we approach Memorial Day, we must all take time to remember the servicemembers and their families who have paid the ultimate price…laying down their life…for our great nation.
“Iowa has lost 158 of our sons and daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan, two in Panama or Grenada, seven in the first Persian Gulf War, and 867 in Vietnam.
“Our Korean and World Wars numbers were in the thousands. 
“While I won’t be able to individually honor all of these heroes, today I’d like to I echo a few names in remembrance of Iowans we lost in the defense of our nation.
“Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jeffrey E. Bohr Jr., is from the tiny farm town of Ossian.
“He was 39 years old when he was killed on April 10th, 2003, after a 7-hour gun battle in front of a Baghdad, Iraq mosque.
“Gunnery Sergeant Bohr served a 20-year career as an Army Ranger and then a Marine.
“He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Camp Pendleton, California at the time of his death. 
“He was the first Iowan killed by enemy fire in Operation Iraqi Freedom. 
“And he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
“Gunnery Sargent Bohr left behind his wife, Lori, who is also a native of Iowa.
“Army Sergeant James C. Kearney III – I know him as Jamie – was an Iowa National Guardsman from Emerson, which is just ten miles from where I grew up. And I knew Jamie before he enlisted in the Iowa National Guard.
“He was very excited about his enlistment, and he told me about his excitement and how he felt he had found a place that truly reward him.
“He was 22 years old when he died on November 1st, 2004, in Salerno Afghanistan, from injuries he sustained when his convoy was attacked by enemy forces using Rocket Propelled Grenades and small arms fire in Afghanistan.
“Sergeant Kearney was assigned to 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry in Glenwood, Iowa, at his death.
“He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Sergeant and awarded a Bronze Star Medal with a ‘V’ device for valor.
“He was the first Iowan killed in Operation Enduring Freedom.  And our community misses him to this day.
“Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jaime S. Jaenke was a Naval Reservist and a native of Iowa Falls.
“She was 30 years old when she was killed on June 5th, 2006, in Al-Anbar Province, Iraq, when a roadside bomb struck the Humvee she was riding in. 
“She was assigned to the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25, based in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, at her death.
“She was posthumously awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal with ‘V’ for valor. 
“She left behind her daughter, Kayla. 
“She was the first woman killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom from Iowa.
“Lance Corporal Adam Franklin Wolf is from Eldon.
“He was 25 years old when he was killed on June 20th, 2014, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
“He was assigned to the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. 
“He is Iowa’s most recent fatality. His twin brother and family survive him. 
“Another group of strength and resiliency I want to acknowledge today is our Gold Star Families.
“They are the ones left behind in battle and war.
“We owe it to the heroes who gave their all to protect and care for their families.
“To every Gold Star Family, thank you—for the sacrifices you’ve made—and continue to make every day.
“I assure you, you are not alone or forgotten.
“I would like to take a brief moment of silence in honor of those we lost in combat or due to everlasting combat injuries.