By Maureen RoseAugust 3, 2009
Fort Knox\'s newest office building was dedicated Friday in memory of 2nd Lt. Jeffrey Graham. His parents, including Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, the commander of Division West, First Army at Fort Carson, Colo., traveled to Knox for the ceremony, and reminded the audience that while the Graham name may be on the building, "his name is representative of every one of our fallen heroes."
The senior commander at Fort Knox, Maj. Gen. Don Campbell, introduced the guests and added that Jeffrey was "A true American hero who gave his life for his country."
Jeffrey deployed to Iraq with his platoon in spite of some unusual circumstances that could have kept him stateside. His younger brother, Kevin, had committed suicide just months before. Jeffrey was at Fort Knox in the Armor Officer Basic Course and then-commander of the installation, Maj. Gen. Terry Tucker, offered Jeffrey a local job as an alternative to his assignment to Fort Riley, Kan. with a unit that was facing deployment.
After discussing it with his father, Jeffrey refused the deferment. "The only thing worse than being a Soldier at war," he said, "is being a Soldier and not going to war...my country is at war and I'm needed."
A few months later, Jeffrey was the platoon leader with Company C, 1st Battalion, 34th Armored Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He was leading a foot patrol outside Fallujah when he spotted an improvised explosive device. He warned his men, saw them disperse, and was ensuring their safety when the device exploded, killing Jeffrey instantly. Soldiers on the scene credit his action and leadership with saving the lives of his platoon.
Lt. Gen. David Valcourt, the deputy commander at Training and Doctrine Command, a close friend of the Grahams, also spoke at the dedication ceremony. He praised the Graham family for their service since the death of their sons; they have become advocates for Soldiers who need help for traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health illnesses.
"Carol may weigh only 100 pounds soaking wet, but she is one of the strongest women I know," Valcourt said of his wife. "She reaches out with her Army strong arms to comfort others.
"Poor is the nation that has no heroes," Valcourt quoted from an anonymous source, "but (beggard) the nation that has and forgets them."
The new Graham Hall will house the many stations necessary for Soldiers to prepare for deployment as well as to process those redeploying. The building will be a reminder of all the Lieutenant Grahams, Valcourt said.
Capt. Scott Payne, a fellow platoon leader and friend of Jeffrey's, read the eulogy that had been delivered at Jeffrey's funeral.
"If we could pick and choose our assignments, we wouldn't be Soldiers," Payne said. "And if we could pick and choose who lives and who dies, we wouldn't be at war."
Gen. Graham thanked the Fort Knox personnel for the honor paid to his son and all the family and friends who attended the ceremony. Lexington, Ky. was Jeffrey's home of record, and as a graduate of the University of Kentucky, he had many friends as well as family in the Fort Knox area.
"I am grateful for the opportunity you gave me to acknowledge the loss of both of our sons," Graham said. "While our personal loss remains painful, it always brings great comfort to remember both our sons and acknowledge that they died fighting different battles."
The Graham building would be a "wonderful tribute," he said, "to the freedoms of American life."
He added that, "To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die."
Gen. Graham exorted his listeners to remember every time they see Graham Hall, "that we are the land of the free because of the brave."