MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Arthur Ewing’s voice cracked as he sang the spiritual, “It is well with my soul,” over his son’s grave Monday in North Miami-Dade. As her husband sang of faith prevailing over suffering, Hilda Ewing brushed back tears.
Their son, PFC Jeremy Ricardo Ewing, was killed ten years ago in Iraq. Ewing was among twelve soldiers killed when a suicide attacker detonated a bomb strapped to his body at a checkpoint in Iraq. Born on Christmas day, 1981, Ewing died at the age of 22. A graduate of Miami Central High School, He had hoped to used his military service to pay his way through college.
“You never forget,” Hilda Ewing said Monday. “It’s not easy because I think about him every day.”
They are reminded of him by a memorial on a table near the front door of their Miami Gardens home. There is the American flag that draped his coffin. His service ribbons. The Bronze Star medal for “meritorious service” to a grateful nation. The walls of the living room are adorned with photos of Jeremy – his boot camp graduation photo, a shot of him in his combat gear in Iraq.
“Freedom is not free,” Arthur Ewing said Monday. “Some give some, and some give it all.”
When this reporter first met the Ewings it was ten years ago this month. They had just learned their son had been killed.
Like thousands of other servicemen in Iraq, Jeremy’s tour of duty had been extended. There was too much war and too few warriors.
“I gave up when they extended his time,” his dad told me on May 3rd, 2004. “When they extended his time, I knew something was going to happen.”
Then President George W. Bush led the charge to Iraq. In May, 2003, Bush jetted to the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Pacific off California and declared, “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” The president stood before hundreds of sailors beneath a banner that read “Mission Accomplished.”
A year later, Jeremy Ewing was killed in Iraq as the war raged on.
Ewing’s parents were bitter toward the president.
“He doesn’t know my pain. He doesn’t know my pain,” Hilda Ewing told me then. “It’s just like he killed my son.”
She and her husband have since let go of their bitterness.
“It ain’t no use to being angry. You can’t bring him back. So, with time, things heal,” Hilda said Monday.
Arthur Ewing said his son is like many who have died in wars popular and unpopular.
“He’s not alone,” the father said. “Maybe it was meant to be this way. God bless America.”
The Ewings have been buoyed in many ways since their son was killed. Soon after his death a painting of Jeremy came in the mail. It shows him in his combat regalia, reproduced from a photograph. A stranger painted and sent the portrait to the Ewings.
It is the stuff of which memories are assured.
“I will not forget him. I don’t want to forget him,” his mother said.
Memories will be aided by little Keana. She is the daughter that Jeremy Ewing never got to meet, born while he was in combat.
“Even though he didn’t know his daughter, or didn’t get to see his daughter, I thank God he left someone behind,” Arthur Ewing said. “He lives on through her.”
Jeremy’s brother, Jermaine, was a US Marine, discharged not long before his brother was killed.
“We had a talk for a long time,” Jermaine said. “He told me that he was glad that I was out of there, that I didn’t belong there.
“He was a good son,” Hilda Ewing said. “I will always remember him.”
As I left the Ewing home on Monday, the parents straightened a red, white and blue sign in the outside planter by the front door.
“Honor and remember PFC Jeremy Ewing,” the sign read, “living legend, defender of freedom.”