There is a special banquet being held in Florida this evening:
3rd Annual Hope Rides Alone Family Reunion Banquet
Saturday, September 18 · 6:00pm - 11:00pm
Come join us as we celebrate the life of Sergeant Eddie Jeffers on the 3rd anniversary of his death. Debbie Lee of America's Mighty Warriors is the keynote speaker. You will not want to miss this joyous and patriotic event. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast, Eddie's favorite charity.
As I recently wrote to Eddie's dad, David, there are not many days go by that I do not think about his precious son Eddie. On September 20, 2007, Flag Gazer wrote this:
Thursday, September 20, 2007
"Blessed be the Lord my Strength,
who teaches my hands to war,
and my fingers to fight."
Wednesday evening - I had just popped dinner in the oven and sat down at the computer to check my email. Up pops a message from David Jeffers, Eddie's father. It was titled Hope Rides Eternal. I expected a new essay from Eddie - a follow up to Hope Rides Alone. Sadly, that was not to be. I was not prepared for the sad news. This is what my email read:
It is with great personal sadness but joy in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that I announce the death of my son Eddie Jeffers. Eddie was killed around 7 am Iraqi time from an accidental vehicle roll-over. Although our personal loss is traumatic, we know he is in a better place. All of you have been so wonderful to my son and my family and he was so blessed and humbled by your love for him. He told me this past summer after the wonderful gift you gave his wife and him that he didn't understand why people were so generous and kind to him. You see to Eddie, he was just doing his job and what he believed was his life mission from God....
There was more, including links to three amazing pieces of writing from Eddie as he was deployed. But Flag Gazer ends with this:
I write this tonight with a heavy heart and great sadness for the loss to the spirit of our country. Eddie was so special to so many of us who never had the honor of knowing him, but whose hearts he touched with goodness and honor. He was a hero to so many of us. We felt fortunate to be able to show our appreciation for what he gave to so many of us... honesty, faith, hope and the American spirit...
Go read the rest of Flag Gazer's beautiful tribute to her friend here.
I heard about Eddie's passing through a different route, and the following Monday I wrote a public letter to this new Angel over on Tanker Bros blog:
Monday, September 24, 2007
You didn't know me in the 23 years you were here, but I have been thinking a lot about you the last few days. Really, I have. This is not the first time I have thought of you, been aware of you. I remember back when your piece "Hope Rides Alone" became famous all over the internet. I know that piece of fine writing from the sandbox gave insights to many of how amazing all of you are, who are fighting today. I remember. I remember smiling because your words put the lie, yet again, to the notion that all soldiers are just killing machines, ignorant hick Rambos gone wild. And you kept fighting, and you kept writing, as the rest of us went on about our everyday business, doing whatever it is we all do, that is SO (sarcasm here) important.
And now? This last week has seen your work, again, all over the internet, and there has been much weeping and sorrow. I have read a lot of the stuff written about you and I feel as if I know you. I read with great sadness that you had died in Iraq. This human heart was heavy. But, as I have talked to people, re-read your writing, I have been so grateful to have been given a glimpse of you.
I came across another comment, on another post about you, these last few days: "words matter." Don't ask me where I found that, but this is a belief I have long held. And I know you have too. These last few days many people have been reading your words.... I know, from all I have read, that you... have been raised, and believe in living a life according to the scriptures. I know that your favourite verse is:
“Blessed be the Lord my Strength, who teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.” Psalm 144:1
I know this because I found that on your dad's site. I also know that you believed in what you were doing for the children, the future of Iraq. ...
And so it is, through the power of the internet, from Freedom Feels Good (here), to The Real Deal in Ramadi (here), you shared your heart with us, and showed us what is really happening for families in a land far, far away from the comforts of your own family and home. I don't know if you were aware then - even as you surely must be by now - how many hearts you opened with your words. Words matter - and your words reach across time and space - will continue to do so - just as those other Words still resonate for a lot of us. Your words remind us all that OUR mission is not over yet, even as you embark on your new mission. Those of us left here get to renew, again, our commitment to this mission which you began. Yes, we do weep that you have gone on ahead, but as your dad says on his blog site:
...Although our personal loss is traumatic, we know he is in a better place....He told me this past summer...You see to Eddie, he was just doing his job and what he believed was his life mission from God....(source)
I also know you are in a far better place, Eddie. I do. And as I have thought about you these last few days, over and over in my mind - unbidden - have come the words:
Do Not Weep For Me
Do not weep for me, for I have lived...
I have joined my hand with my fellow's hands,
to leave the planet better than I found it.
Do not weep for me, for I have loved and been loved by my family, by those I love who loved me back.
For I never knew a stranger, only friends.
Do not weep for me.
When you feel the ocean spray upon your face,
I am there.
When your heart beats faster at the dolphin's leaping grace,
I am there.
When you reach out to touch another's heart,
as now I touch God's face,
I am there.
Do not weep for me. I am not gone.
(another prolific writer here)
Oh Eddie, so many hearts you have touched and changed. "Your spirit will live forever/it lives in the laughing eyes of children/ who are free from want and oppression."...
On Wake Up America there was also a column about Eddie:
Thursday, September 20, 2007
This is from an email I received from a frequent reader of Wake up America, Michelle.
I am sending you a link to a letter (if you google Eddie Jeffers you can read all his letters) written by a solider in Iraq. Eddie Jeffers is…..ah, …was a friend of a friend of mine. He died two days ago.
Eddie was an Army Infantryman serving in Ramadi.
Please honor this young man and his undying love of his country. He deserves nothing short of a memorial in his honor, and we are working on one here.
Letter from Sgt.Eddie Jeffers:
I stare out into the darkness from my post, and I watch the city burn to the ground. I smell the familiar smells, I walk through the familiar rubble, and I look at the frightened faces that watch me pass down the streets of their neighborhoods. My nerves hardly rest; my hands are steady on a device that has been given to me from my government for the purpose of taking the lives of others.
I sweat, and I am tired. My back aches from the loads I carry. Young American boys look to me to direct them in a manner that will someday allow them to see their families again...and yet, I too, am just a boy....my age not but a few years more than that of the ones I lead. I am stressed, I am scared, and I am paranoid...because death is everywhere. It waits for me, it calls to me from around street corners and windows, and it is always there.
There are the demons that follow me, and tempt me into thoughts and actions that are not my own...but that are necessary for survival. I've made compromises with my humanity. And I am not alone in this. Miles from me are my brethren in this world, who walk in the same streets...who feel the same things, whether they admit to it or not.
And to think, I volunteered for this...
And I am ignorant to the rest of the world...or so I thought.
But even thousands of miles away, in Ramadi, Iraq, the cries and screams and complaints of the ungrateful reach me. In a year, I will be thrust back into society from a life and mentality that doesn't fit your average man. And then, I will be alone. And then, I will walk down the streets of America, and see the yellow ribbon stickers on the cars of the same people who compare our President to Hitler....
And there is much more over here, including a beautiful poem in the comments which is a must read.
And then there is this beautiful video tribute I found:
jeffers221 | September 24, 2007
From little boy to mighty warrior, Sergeant Eddie Jeffers lived his 23 1/2 years to its fullest. He emptied himself completely.
Sgt. Eddie Jeffers: ALWAYS remembered and honoured.