FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The Fort Jackson community lost a very important person when Jeremiah Jeffcoat died unexpectedly shortly before Christmas. Mr. Jeffcoat was more than a seasoned network professional. He was known to many as a friend, colleague, teacher and sometimes counselor and pastor when the situation called for it.

I remember my first time meeting Mr. Jeffcoat like it was yesterday.

I was a brand new Army civilian, new to Fort Jackson, and I was assigned to an office with -- you guessed it -- no network connection. I called the Network Enterprise Center and explained the situation to Mr. Jeffcoat. About 30 minutes later a man with a great big smile on his face -- the kind of smile that you just can't help but return -- strolled into my office area.

In fact, I knew it was him coming down the hall before he actually arrived by the cheerful and boisterous greetings he received by everyone on his way in the door as he made his way to my area.

I found myself standing over his shoulder as he meticulously worked, continuously apologizing for causing a hiccup in his schedule that day.

"Don't worry, Ms. Phifer, it's not a problem. We'll get you set up in no time," he said.

That was Jeremiah. I didn't know at the time that I would have the privilege of working with Jeremiah at the NEC a year later.

Few people on Fort Jackson were known as well and by as many as Mr. Jeffcoat, but his dedication to selfless service didn't start here.

Jeremiah began his service to our nation when he enlisted in the Army in 1968. He served for 21 years and two tours in Vietnam, retiring at the rank of sergeant first class. Jeremiah's civilian career began when he came to Fort Jackson in 1991 to work for the Directorate of Information Management (DOIM), now known as the Network Enterprise Center.

It's hard to imagine a Fort Jackson without modern network connectivity, but that was exactly the state of affairs when Mr. Jeffcoat arrived. For more than 20 years, Jeremiah's hand skillfully touched just about every strand of copper and fiber -- every switch and connection -- that you see on this installation.

Every time you sit down to your workstation, it's a humbling thought to ponder the hard work and dedication of those who came before you to make the work you do each day possible. Jeremiah will be dearly missed, but his memory lives on with us here on Jackson in a very special way. It's hard to top a legacy like that.

At Jeremiah's funeral, Mr. Gregg Fink, a member of the expanded NEC family took a moment to speak about his treasured friendship with Jeremiah during the two years he spent here on Fort Jackson.

He spoke of the moments they had spent sharing life experiences, joys, tragedies, and even their testimonies. His next words stood out most clearly to those in attendance as being the essence of Jeremiah's presence here on Fort Jackson.

"He had a big heart, a passion and a love for people," Fink said. "He would stop to talk, to lend a word of encouragement, a smile, a laugh, and a prayer. For the longest time, I thought I was aboard 'Fort Jeffcoat' because just about every building that we went into, Mr. J knew somebody or a cousin. He would greet them with a warm smile and a jovial laugh. Aside from reading about Abraham in the Bible, I'd never met anyone with such a large family."

I didn't know Jeremiah as well as some did. I didn't know all the little, everyday quirks that made him who he was. That being said, I like to think that I knew him well enough to say that he was truly an exceptional man.