by Tom McClintock | Sacramento and D.C

Rep. McClintock gave the following speech in the memory of Army Spc. Jeremiah P. McCleery of Portola, CA, who as killed in action in Iraq. A version of this speech was delivered at a memorial for Spc. McCleery in Quincy on Memorial Day.

I rise today with the sad duty of recognizing the death in combat of Army Specialist Jeremiah P. McCleery, age 24, of Portola, California.

Mr. Speaker, if you read the observations of his friends you very quickly realize that this was not only an irreplaceable loss to his family and a monumental loss to his community – but also a terrible loss to our country.

Miah, as he was known, was simply a good kid.  He made friends easily, had a great sense of humor, and he had wanted to join the Army since he was four years old.

He was an exemplary soldier who commanded the friendship and respect of his colleagues.  He had fallen in love with a girl at Fort Hood before he shipped out, with their whole lives ahead of them.

A friend of his, Josh Rodgers, was asked when Miah McCleery was happiest and the answer was, “Doing anything with his dad.”

They had lost his mother, Collette, to cancer a few years ago.  His father, Joe, worked at a refuse collection company and later at a sheet metal business – and Miah was often at his side.

That same friend was asked why Jeremiah had enlisted.  The response, “He always wanted to when he was a kid.  He probably just wanted to out of patriotic duty and to serve.  I think he wanted to go do his part.”

The question first asked by James Michener, thunders across the countryside with a loss like this: “Where do we get such men?”

M. Speaker, I don’t know how to offer condolences to Miah McCleery’s family; to his father Joe; to his sisters Lynette and Chastity, and to his grandparents and friends.  The loss they bear is beyond my comprehension.

I can only offer my awe and gratitude that humanity has within itself a small band of brothers like Jeremiah McCleery who step forward not for treasure or profit nor even to defend their own freedom, but rather to win the freedom of a people half a world away.  And they do it because their country asks and because it is virtuous and noble.

A few feet from here in the Capitol Rotunda is a fresco called the “Apotheosis of Washington.”  It depicts Gen. Washington, in uniform, ascending to the heavens, flanked by victory and freedom, and surrounded by the essence and fruits of a free nation.  And in that depiction, Washington beckons.

From little towns like Portola, California, decent young men and women with promising futures like Jeremiah McCleery have answered.  And I don’t know where we get such men and I don’t know how their families can bear it.

But I do know what we owe them.  And I do know that we can never repay that debt, except to honor their memory and keep their sacrifice always in mind – those who gave up everything “To proclaim liberty throughout all the land, and unto all the inhabitants thereof.” CRO

Rep. Tom McClintock is a Member of Congress representing California’s 4th Congressional district.

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