A death in the family brings war in Iraq home to relatives
by Jim Schoettler
Published Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Jimmy Ramsey woke up Tuesday morning wondering how he could honor his brother, who died last week in Iraq.
So Ramsey put on his pants.
The desert-colored camouflage pants were sent to Ramsey about 17 years ago by his brother, Gerard Reed, who was serving in Desert Storm. Ramsey wore the pants all day Tuesday, including a trip to his mother’s Jacksonville Beach home, where he sat in a chair holding a picture of Reed, his wife and teenage son.
“This was the last thing he gave me,” Ramsey, 49, said of the pants. “They’re just sentimental to me. I just wanted to wear them.”
Department of Defense officials said Tuesday that Reed, a 40-year-old sergeant, died June 11 in Baghdad in a “non-combat related incident.” A brother, Cedric Reed, said Reed’s wife was told he was shot. Family members had no other details.
Reed, a Jacksonville Beach native and Fletcher High School graduate, had been in the Army about 22 years and was planning to retire to a home in Tennessee this year, Ramsey said. He was assigned to the 86th Combat Support Hospital, Fort Campbell, Ky.
One of five children, Reed was described by his family as a happy-go-lucky person who loved his wife and son. He also was passionate about preaching the gospel. An ordained minister who served a church in Clarksville, Tenn., Reed saw the Army as a way to serve his country and God.
“He loved the military because he could reach souls,” Ramsey said. “Gerard was a God-fearing man.”
Growing up, Reed enjoyed chess and sports, including running track and wrestling in high school. Before graduating in the mid-1980s, he joined the military, as did his brother, Cedric Reed.
“He was patriotic,” Cedric Reed, 39, told the Times-Union in a telephone interview from Texas. “He loved serving his country and he loved people.”
Reed’s mother, Bobbie Lee Ramsey, recalled her son as a wise man who taught her many lessons in life. She said she last saw him in August at Fort Campbell, Ky.
“In my mind, I will always have my son with me,” Ramsey, 69, said.
An aunt, Alberta Donaldson, shared the same feelings of love and wondered why Reed had to die. “What they are fighting for? Do you know?” said Donaldson, 77, who also lives in Jacksonville Beach. “Somebody tell me.”
Jimmy Ramsey said he was overcome with grief after learning of his brother’s death, but the next day felt some relief.
“I knew he was in God’s hands,” Ramsey said.
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