Let the memory of Jeremy be with us forever
  • 27 years old
  • Born on February 5, 1978 .
  • Passed away on November 16, 2005 .

"Freedom isn't free," Harold Murray said Thursday. "I can show you it's not."

It was his way of explaining how the life of his only son, Marine Sgt. Jeremy Murray, 28, was well spent.

Jeremy Murray died this week in Iraq.

The Murray family was told that he was a passenger in a Humvee, hit by a roadside bomb -- an improvised explosive device, or IED in military parlance.

But there was no question Thursday of the Portage County father's pride.

"I know a lot of people are against the war, but our son gave his life for it," he said. "Someday, his sacrifice will make a difference for someone other than him."

Jeremy Murray has been in the military since he graduated Waterloo High School in 1996.

But his mother knew when he really joined the service: "Birth," Pam Murray said without hesitation. Jeremy Murray told his parents that he wasn't afraid to die.

"If that's what I have to do," he told them, "that's what I have to do."

He first enlisted in the Army, returned home, worked for a few months, then joined the Marines.

"He wasn't happy with anything but the military," Harold Murray said.

His willingness to serve was ingrained in him early through an appreciation for the outdoors.

"When he was 2 years old, I'd take him through the woods (with him in) a buddy pack," Harold Murray said, his voice cracking with emotion.

His son was soon engrossed by a love of the woods, hunting and fishing. It wasn't long before he took up what would be a childhood frenzy of sorts -- a love for all things Daniel Boone, the greatest hunter of all time, he believed.

His parents made him a cap from raccoon skin, a vest of rabbit pelts and fully fringed frontier outfit. A family friend made him a bowie knife out of metal. Harold Murray even made him a replica flintlock with his bare hands.

"He moved out of the Daniel Boone costume into fatigues," Harold Murray said. "He never was out of those."

He paused.


Given the day, Harold Murray then said something remarkable.

"The biggest mistake of my life," he said, "is I never served."

He recalled that his son spent so much time practicing for his future service that when he first entered the Army, he could break down a rifle faster than his drill sergeant.

"The drill sergeant didn't like that," his mother mused.

Sgt. Murray -- a member of the Thundering Third battalion First Marines out of Camp Pendleton -- died during his third tour in Iraq.

And his parents said they supported what he was doing there.

But that didn't mean they weren't concerned about the bad news coming out of the country. One day, Pam Murray was surfing the Internet and saw a picture that caught her eye.

It was a night photo of several Marines poised to enter an Iraqi home. One of the Marines stood with his back against an outer wall, his rifle poised for action. Even from the distant, poorly lighted photo, there was no doubt: That was her son.

"I could tell by the way he was holding his gun," Harold Murray said. "It was scary. That's your boy."

Sgt. Murray's 10-year-old niece -- Torey Frame of Atwater -- composed a handwritten letter in honor of her uncle.

Harold Murray read it aloud Thursday to a living room full of loved ones.

"I know he's a hero in my heart," Torey wrote. "I will always miss you."

Murray leaves behind a wife, the former Megan Ferringer of Stow, and their 5-year-old son, Ian.

"His son always made him laugh," Pam Murray said, pausing to collect herself.

Of all the pictures the Murrays have of their son, it was one from his childhood that caused more tears.

The young, strapping adolescent boy's homemade fringe shirt and pants were covered in a vest of rabbit pelts assembled by his father, with the homemade replica flintlock rifle poised in his hands.

The cap of raccoon skin made by his family rested on his head, inches above an impish, tilted grin. His right eye winked at the camera, like he knew something others didn't.

No one could have looked happier that day than Jeremy Murray -- Harold Murray's buddy -- standing there in the snow, wrapped in a family's love.

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