Monday, September 17, 2007

Drew Jensen remembered

Capt. Drew Jensen almost lived long enough to see his fellow soldiers from the 3rd Stryker Brigade come home.

Jensen, a West Point graduate, was shot in the neck and paralyzed in May. On Friday, doctors and his family followed his wishes and turned off life support at the Puget Sound VA hospital.

"His wife, parents, brothers, extended families and friends will miss him beyond anything words can convey," said his wife, Stacia Jensen, in an e-mail statement.

Jensen was on his second deployment as a mortar platoon leader when a sniper's bullet struck him in the neck during an insurgent attack in Baqouba, Iraq. Jensen was wounded as he tried to help a fellow soldier who was pinned behind a vehicle after a bomb explosion, according to e-mail updates sent to friends and family by his wife.

Despite a 10-hour surgery in Landstuhl, Germany, to stabilize his spine and fuse his vertebrae, Jensen was left a quadriplegic and dependent on a breathing tube. He was transferred to Walter Reed, and later to the VA in Seattle.

One of Jensen's last actions in life was to look out for other wounded soldiers at the VA Hospital in Seattle. Before his death, he designated that a $10,000 fund established in his name should go to help offset the housing costs of other families who travel far to be near their wounded loved one's bedside.

Jensen's wife, as well as other family members and friends, spent nearly 24 hours a day at his bedside.

The money was raised by Azalea Charities, a Virginia-based group that provides aid for wounded soldiers, some of it raised through the Marine Corps Marathon Run for Wounded Soldiers.

Jensen's case caught the attention of one of Azalea's benefactors, Prince Leopold d'Arenberg of Belgium, whose mother and sisters were rescued by American soldiers from a Nazi death camp in 1945. D'Arenberg met Jensen and his wife during a tour of the intensive care unit at Walter Reed.

George Kraus, a retired Marine who helps administer the Aid to Wounded Soldier Program, was at that meeting.

"The prince was shaken," said Kraus. "And my knees buckled after we left the room. We'd never seen anything that bad."

Jensen fought to regain as much function as he could. He was transferred to the Puget Sound VA on June 1.

"It was a great day when I walked in, and Drew announced he had been cleared to swallow water," his wife wrote in an update.

Doctors at the VA were also able to adjust his ventilator so he could use his own voice when he spoke, which freed up their communication.

"We usually read his lips and while perfecting this talent may help with my future career as a spy, I much prefer to hear his voice," she wrote.

Jensen grew up in Damascus, Ore., became an Eagle Scout and graduated from Sam Barlow High School in Gresham, according to family.

"He's one of the three most wonderful children ever born," his mother, Mardie Jensen, told The Oregonian newspaper. "We'd like to have him remembered for his accomplishments rather than his death."

Jensen had two older brothers.

"Drew Jensen was always an active and passionate person who gave the best of himself to whatever he did," Stacia Jensen said in a statement released last night. "He inspired those around him by embodying the qualities that he valued most: dignity, honor, courage and leadership. For those of us lucky enough to know Drew, we could not have asked for a better husband, son, brother, leader or friend. Drew was a true hero and an example to us all. "

He graduated from West Point in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in history. He was trained as an infantry officer and went through the Ranger school at Fort Benning, Ga. His first station was at Fort Lewis. He was a member of the first Stryker Brigade deployed to Iraq from November 2003 to October 2004. He met and married Stacia just before his second deployment in June 2006.

Jensen's family has set up the Drew Jensen Memorial Fund, which will provide college scholarships for disadvantaged students who show exceptional leaderships. You can contribute through the Oregon Community Foundation at

From the Post Intelligencer

Related Link:
Drew N. Jensen dies 'in Seattle of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire during combat operations May 7'