Too all the bad guys in Iraq I say, bring your boys home; then we can finish the job and bring ours home too.
My friend Mike is currently serving in Iraq; he lost one of his close friends recently. Below is his eulogy for Private First Class Shawn Gajdos.
By Captain Michael A. Jurick Jr.
I had the highest honor to serve with Private First Class Shawn Gajdos as his Company Commander from April, 2006, until 31 May, 2007. He was everything you could ask for in a Soldier.
PFC Gajdos didn’t join the Army for college money, or to impress some girl; he joined because he wanted to serve his Country….bottom line. After his basic training, he was assigned to 2nd Battalion 16th Infantry Regiment, part of the First Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas. Maybe not the dream assignment for a new Soldier, but he made the best of it. He made friends quickly. There aren’t many people in this Battalion that didn’t know Shawn Gajdos.
He was the Soldier that all leaders loved to have on their side. He was smart; he was the go-to guy to get things done. The first time I got to know him was when he was handpicked to attend an Arabic language course with me back in May 2006. I was super amazed at how quickly he picked up on it, and was instantly impressed. I knew right away what a special Soldier he was, and how valuable he was going to be to our company. PFC Gajdos was the guy we sent to get trained on new equipment because we knew he wouldn’t have any trouble mastering it quickly and be able to come back and teach us. He was hand picked to serve as my driver. A Commander’s driver is a demanding position that requires only the smartest and most proactive Soldiers. Any task he was given, he took it and beat it into submission. There wasn’t a thing I asked him to do that he never did. Serving as my driver, there were very few moments I wasn’t around him. Prior to our deployment to Iraq, he served in our training room; another tough, demanding job. Not only did he handle a lot of the administrative paperwork of the company, he was also within throttling distance of the company First Sergeant. But he rolled with it, never letting anything distract him or get to him. He was a single Soldier, but that never stopped him from wanting to be involved and help out when we held our Family Readiness meetings. He was 25 years old, a little older than the typical Private that joins the Army, which inherently made us expect more out of him. While most of his buddies were out getting drunk and stupid (or arrested, which would get me called at 3 AM), he would be smart. Never did we have to deal with him in an adverse way. He epitomized the Army Values; Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.
Shawn Gajdos deployed to Iraq with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment on February 6th, 2007, as part of the troop “surge”. He spent less than three weeks in Kuwait training before finding himself in Baghdad, Iraq, living on his new “home”, Forward Operating Base Rustamiyah. Being my driver in a combat environment, much more was expected of him. We had been fielded a new type of radio that we have never seen before. Problem? Absolutely not….Shawn Gajdos sat through a quick class, and in no time, he was teaching others how to use that radio. Gajdos and I were a team. We rode together on dozens of combat operations. Being the commander, I needed the flexibility to be able to essentially move on demand…not problem for Gajdos. All I had to do was tell him a time, and he was ready to roll. While my gunner was on leave, he jumped right up in the turret and took over. I never had any doubt there wasn’t a single job that he couldn’t excel at. He was a warrior; we conducted about every mission you could imagine. From making six trips clear across Baghdad, to reconnaissance missions, to sniper emplacement missions; he wasn’t afraid to do anything. He was proud to be doing what he was doing, knowing he was making history.
We spent so much time together that it is quite possible that he knows more about me than my own wife. He was my “insider” into the world of the Soldiers. If there was any juicy gossip, he made sure I was in the loop. We would talk about everything:
I know all about life in Grand Rapids.
I know all about the “LP” and how to never accuse someone from Grand Rapids of being from the “UP”.
I know all about the “wet burrito” and how only someone from Grand Rapids would know what that is.
I know that East Grand Rapids was the city that the American Pie movie series was based out of.
I know about every single girl that he liked and how he thought that they were out of his league….I say to any girl that this applies too, including Stacey Kiebler, the exact opposite couldn’t be truer. Shawn Gajdos is out of your league.
I know how all he wanted to do was to pay off his debt, get home, and buy a new Volkswagen.
I know how he subscribed to Stuff Magazine, Guns and Ammo, and Computer Shopper; making him about as well rounded as you can get.
He is one of my MySpace friends, and will continue to be. Shawn Gajdos and I even named our truck; being huge fans of the move “Super Troopers”, we referred to ourselves as “Car Ramrod”, a name that I told him I would take with me when I relinquish command; which I did four days before he died. I always teased him about saving Middle Earth, knowing he hated “Lord of the Rings.”
I know how badly he wanted his CIB. The Combat Infantryman’s Badge, in the Army, is awarded to only Infantrymen that are engaged in direct ground combat with an enemy force. Every time we would get ready to roll on a mission, Gajdos would sometimes ask, “Are you going to get me a CIB today sir??” or I would say “Gajdos, we’re getting you a CIB today”. Well Gajdos, you earned that CIB. I hope that you pin it on and wear it proudly as you now walk humbly at the right hand of God.
PFC Shawn Gajdos was killed on June 6th, 2007, when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq. He was temporarily serving as a gunner. I saw him the very second he rolled out the gate, with my final words to him being, “be safe man.” I never would have guessed that would be the last time I would see him. Even with this being my second tour in Iraq, and after going through numerous Soldiers’ deaths, I have never lost a Soldier so close to me. I find it almost fitting that he died on such a historic date, June 6th. Just as his past brethren stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, 67 years ago, PFC Gajdos, also, has made a footprint on history. PFC Shawn Gajdos now joins the ranks of other great American Soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country and the defense of Freedom.
PFC Shawn Gajdos, you were a phenomenal Soldier, an outstanding Man, a true Friend, and a great American. Rest in peace my friend, I will never forget you. Car Ramrod Forever!!!