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Deborah and David Kleinschmidt, right, had a chance to become acquainted with the service dog named for Deborah's son, Marine Cpl. Jeremy McQueary, at a graduation ceremony in Falmouth, Mass. earlier this year. The dog, trained to assist military personnel who had been injured in conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq, was turned over to his new owner, Col. Anthony Dingman, kneeling at left. The ceremony was conducted by the Patriot Rover organization which trains the animals for their duties of assistance and are often named in memory of individuals who lost their lives in the conflicts. / Submitted photo
A lot of people around here remember Jeremy McQueary. A lot more will become familiar with his name in the years to come.
After Nov. 11 motorists driving into or out of Nashville will see Jeremy’s name on an official state sign at a bridge near Brown County State Park.
Walkers, runners and bikers can read it now on a bench on the People Trail alongside Jonathan Moore Pike.
And somewhere in the state of Massachusetts, a wounded warrior will summon a service dog, named Jeremy, assigned to assist him and others in their recovery.
That Jeremy’s name is so prominently used is due in great part to the sacrifice he made on Feb. 18, 2010. The 27-year-old Marine corporal was killed in action in Afghanistan — struck by shrapnel from an improvised explosive device.
It’s also due to the dogged determination of his mother, Debbie Kleinschmidt, to ensure that the name and the memory of the 2002 Columbus East High School graduate be preserved.
For three years she has attempted to convince state legislators to name a section of State Road 46 between Columbus and Nashville in honor of her son but to no avail.
“Each time I worked with Sen. Greg Walker (R-Columbus) and (then) Sen. Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington), but each time the request was assigned to committee and never came out,” said the Columbus woman last week. “I got so frustrated because I didn’t know what to do.”
She happened on an answer at a meeting earlier this year of the Indiana Gold Star Mothers — a support organization for families of service members who were killed in wars — when she had the opportunity to talk with the guest speaker, Gov. Mike Pence, a Columbus native.
“He listened to my story and called over his aide (Lani Czarniecki) and asked him to research the issue to see what could be done,” she said.
The answer came back a few weeks later.
“Gov. Pence told me that it wasn’t in his authority to name a state road in honor of anyone,” he said. “Then he added, ‘On the other hand, I can name a bridge for Jeremy.’”
While the bridge selected to bear Jeremy’s name is somewhat modest, Debbie thinks its location is befitting his memory.
“He always traveled that road from the time he got his driver’s license,” she said. “It was also so close to where he and Rae (Jeremy’s widow) lived after they were married.”
The date for its dedication is also appropriate — Nov. 11, Veterans Day. Pence will officiate at a 2 p.m. ceremony near the entrance to Brown County State Park just off Indiana 46. The ceremony was moved to the park because of the limited space near the bridge.
Debbie and her husband, David Kleinschmidt, recently returned from another ceremony involving the application of her son’s name. Earlier she had come across information about an organization known as Patriot Rover.
The group’s mission has been to provide service personnel who suffered injuries during the conflicts with service dogs that have been trained to assist them in their recovery. In this case, the animals — many of them rescues — have been trained and certified as psychiatric service dogs, working specifically with veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
The dogs are trained to perform such tasks as to jolt a soldier from a flashback, dial 911 on a phone and even sense a panic attack before it starts. They can also help the veterans achieve a renewed sense of responsibility, optimism and self-awareness through caring for them.
As part of this program, the group provides names for the dogs, names of service personnel killed in the wars and submitted by their families.
Debbie met her son’s namesake at the graduation and naming ceremony in Falmouth, Mass. His new owner is Col. Anthony Dingman, a veterans affairs physician who is still on active duty with the National Guard. He not only suffers from PTSD himself but counsels other soldiers with the same disorder.
“That first meeting, Tony said he couldn’t believe that Jeremy was so calm at that time of day, but the dog just came up to us, sat at my feet and just looked up at me,” Debbie said.
She is determined that her son’s memory not fade with the passage of years.
“So many times we wait years, even decades, to pay tribute to our heroes, especially those who died in service of their country,” she said. “Oftentimes when we get around to recognizing them, especially those who served in World War II, there are few if any around who knew them in life. I want to make sure there’s something to always remind those who knew Jeremy that he was among us.”
That’s a mission Debbie appears to have accomplished.
Jeremy was a number of things in his life.
Son of Debbie Kleinschmidt and the late Dallas McQueary.
Husband of Rae.
Father of Hadley.
Columbus East High School graduate.
It was in that last role that Jeremy McQueary died.
He was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010.
He was only 27 years old.
Veterans Day activities
Veterans Day ceremony
WHERE: Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans
WHEN: 11 a.m., Nov. 11
HIGHLIGHTS: Roll call of names of Bartholomew County veterans who died in the past year
RAIN LOCATION: Cal Brand Meeting Room, City Hall
Lunch for veterans
WHERE: Wagner-Reddick Veterans of Foreign Wars Post on U.S. 31 south of the city
WHEN: Post will be open at 11 a.m. and remain open throughout the early afternoon.
MENU: Veterans will be able to enjoy a free lunch featuring bean soup, ham salad sandwiches, Italian deer burgers and other items.
Dedication of bridge honoring the late
WHERE: Brown County State Park
WHEN: 2 p.m.
DIRECTIONS: Enter the state park off State Road 46, proceed to the toll booth, tell attendant of plans to participate in the ceremony and proceed to a tented area off to the right after leaving the toll booth.
SPECIAL GUEST: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at email@example.com.
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