30, of West Allis, Wis.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.; died Jan. 5 in Ibrahim Al Adham, Iraq, of wounds sustained when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
30-year-old soldier from West Allis killed in Iraq
By James A. Carlson
The Associated Press
MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee area soldier who was trained in Arabic before being deployed in Iraq has been killed by an improvised explosive device there.
Pfc. Jason F. Lemke, 30, died Saturday from wounds suffered when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Ibrahim Al Adham, the Department of Defense said Monday.
He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, out of Fort Lewis, Wash.
Lemke enlisted in December 2004 in Milwaukee and underwent training in Fort Benning, Ga. He transferred to Fort Lewis in May 2005 and his brigade deployed to Iraq in April.
“He had a year of intensive training in Arabic language,” said Gregory Lemke of Milwaukee, Jason’s father.
The training left him adept enough to surprise an Arabic-speaking shopkeeper at a local shopping center by striking up a friendship in his own language, Lemke said.
“I guess he made a big hit with the guy because of his language,” he said, adding that his son also spoke Spanish.
Jason graduated in 1996 from Wisconsin Lutheran High School, he said.
He worked for a company that made stainless steel kitchen appliances but enlisted some time after his marriage ended in divorce, his father said, adding that Jason had two children living with their mother.
“He wanted to serve before and I kind of talked him out of it,” Lemke said, but the family has a history of military service.
“His grandpa was in the Marines. His uncle was a Marine. My father was in the Army, and my older brother was in the Army,” he said. “So there’s a family service thing there. He wanted to make a mark, I guess.”
At the time of his enlistment, he had been living in his grandfather’s house just across the border in suburban West Allis from the family’s home in Milwaukee.
Lemke said his son got leaves while stationed in the U.S. so he could be home for the holidays.
“This was our first Christmas without him,” he said.
He said he hadn’t been very comforted to think the warfare seemed to be lessening in Iraq in recent months.
“My deer hunting buddy said it’s winding down,” he said. “I said it doesn’t matter if it’s winding down. If it’s the one that you love, that’s it.”
The death came just before the anniversary Jan. 16 of the death in Vietnam of a distant cousin, Alec Horn, whose picture is still on his mantle, Gregory Lemke said.
The family learned of Jason’s death Saturday and has been informed the body has been returned to the U.S., he said. He planned to meet with a casualty officer Tuesday about funeral arrangements.
Jason Lemke’s awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
He is the 82nd Wisconsin resident to die as a result of service in the Iraq war.