An annual Remembrance Run/Walk 5K was held at Sadowski Field at Fort Hood, Texas with more than 7,000 boots staged along the field and surrounding roads for the June 30 event. Each boot would represent the life of a service member whose life was lost since Sept. 11, 2001. Some held personal messages from friends and family. Included were 59 boots representing service dogs that also died while serving their soldier and country.
Former Hawthorne resident and Mineral County Class of 1999 alumni, SSG Kristin Adams would be in attendance and found a boot representing Army soldier PFC Jerrick M. Petty, also a former resident of Hawthorne and one time friends of Adams.
The Fort Hood Sentinel would report that over 600 people came out in remembrance for those “who paid the ultimate price.” Petty was among them.
A boot in his honor sat upon the grass with a photo of the young soldier who lost his life on Dec. 10, 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Maj. Gen. JT Thomson, III Corps and Fort Hood deputy commander would say in his opening remarks, “Freedom is not free. It never has been. It never will be. In four days, we will celebrate Independence Day. We will celebrate our precious freedom, and I can’t think of any finer way to start our Fourth of July activities than coming together as a community to honor those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice. This event is a start reminder of the tremendous cost of our nation’s sons and daughters that have paid to defend our great country to preserve the American way of life.”
PFC Petty was only 25 at the time of his death. He had been assigned to Company B, 3rd Battalion, 502 Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) from Fort Campbell, Ky.
SSG Adams fondly recalled her friendship with PFC Petty, long before either knew the harshness of war.
“I remember going to his house and watching Joe Vs the Volcano for the first time at the Petty house. It’s now one of my favorite movies. Weirdly enough, Steven [Adams brother] and I are related to the Petty’s. I’m not sure how. Distant cousins I think.”
SSG Adams recalls PFC Petty’s death, “When I found out he was killed, I was in Mosul. We had just finished moving up from Kuwait and had finally stopped pushing north. Jerrick was in my Battalion from Ft. Campbell; they were guarding an oil field when he was killed. We had finally gotten information after three months of moving about our casualties. Our losses.”
PFC Petty had moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho where he was a young father and husband. He had been working construction and at McDonalds but chose to join the Army to earn money to support his young family, the Associated Press reported at the time of his death.
“I didn’t even know he was in the Army,” SSG Adams explains. “Let alone in Iraq and in 2nd Brigade 101st. To find out that he had passed was so strange. To have such a big world and two people from such a small town be in the same place and not know it.”
PFC Petty had always been on a mission to look out for others, his father; Jerald Petty told the Associated Press after his son’s passing.
Jerald would explain, “When he was 10 years old, he would beat up neighborhood bullies who were picking on other children. In high school, he screened his little sisters’ suitors to make sure they were good people.”
“I think about my childhood friend and wish I had the opportunity to see him one more time before he was gone,” SSG Adams reflects. “To see his adult face on a badge attached to a boot among thousands of others, hurts my heart. He’s my brother and friend no matter the time or distance. And he is missed but not forgotten. I think about him and others like him every day.”
SSG Adams is not alone in her thoughts of the young soldier. At the time of his death, he left behind his wife, Tiffany and two children: daughter, Azure Dawn and son, Jerrick McKen II.
“The last thing he said to me was, ‘I love you, Dad,’” his father explained to the Associated Press. “And the last thing I said to him was, ‘I love you, son.’”
PFC Petty’s name is forever inscribed on a memorial at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Hawthorne, his hometown and his name is spoken each Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Like SSG Adams – Hawthorne does not forget those they call their own.