Dear Kayla, today we remember your mom.

Jamie Jaenke

When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t find it in me to write.  How do you write a blog to encourage women to live their HeartStories on the day we pause everything to remember the fallen ones?

The men and women who gave their lives to give us freedom.

It’s hard to find words. I considered writing about grieving, freedom or gratitude.  But I just couldn’t write.  So I didn’t.

I gave myself permission to just skip today.

It was too hard.

After spending the day with thoughts of gratitude for the freedom I have.  Thinking of all the stories families remember today, it occurred to me that I could tell one.

Just one. 

Because that’s something I can do.  I can tell the story of a woman who was fighting for me.  A woman who had a family and a story.  A name.

She was born the same year I was, 1976.

Her name was Jaime Jaenke. 

Jamie Jaenke

Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class, Jaime S. Jaenke

At 29 years old, she was serving as a paramedic with the Navy in Operation Iraqi Freedom, when her humvee was hit by a roadside bomb on June 5th 2006.  She completed 25 missions in Iraq, safely escorting 375 people.  Her unit was involved in reconstructing the country, building infrastructure such as schools and wells.

Jamie Jaenke

Jaime’s cousin remembered her this way, “Her dream was to be a nurse.  She did what she loved doing, which is help others and serve her country.”

Jaime left behind a beautiful 9-year-old daughter who, no doubt, did not understand.  It’s been 9 years this year.  Kayla is probably graduating from High School any day now.

Jamie and Kayla Jaenke

I bet she still misses her mom.

I bet she still doesn’t understand.

I bet it still hurts, bad.  

I hope she knows we remember, even on the days it doesn’t seem like anyone does.

I hope she knows we are grateful.

Dear Kayla,

I salute you.

You are the real hero.

No words could ever be enough.

I remember you today, with an ache in my heart for your loss.

May you enter your years as an adult with the pride of your mother’s sacrifice.

May you carry her love in your heart.

May you honor her and free yourself, by laying bitterness to rest with the past.

May you be filled with peace and hope.

May you live your life with purpose.

Make the difference only you can make.

May we each remember.  Not only the fallen ones, but the ones who are left behind to hold the pieces.

To more love,


Kayla Jaenke


  1. Crystal,
    Thank you for writing this. I was on Jaime’s team and was there that day. There was 24 people on our convoy security team and Jaime was our Corpsman. She took her job seriously and thanks to her teaching us what to do in case something bad happened to her, we were able to save two survivors from the vehicle she was in. I met Kayla the day before we left for Iraq. Our team has a reunion every year and we continue to honor Jaime and Gary, the other person who was killed. You do not need to publish this. I just wanted to tell you thank you.

    1. Hi Dan, thank you for sharing even more about Jaime’s story. She was a lifesaver, even in her death. I’m glad I could do a small thing to honor her. (It publishes automatically.) Thank you for your service.

  2. I live in Iowa Falls, Iowa….her hometown. I will never forget watching her procession drive past my home. I stood along the road paying my respects. I never knew her, but I’m very proud she came from Iowa Falls.

  3. It seems like yesterday that we lost her, it feels like yesterday, it hurts like yesterday

    1. I’m sure that’s true. I can only imagine your pain Larry. There are no words to make it better.

  4. Thank you or the kind words my daughter was one of 4. 3 brothers that she ruled, terrorized and defended
    Her daughter is her legacy. I was her second in line. I always did my best but I am not Jaime.
    We have had our ups and downs. PTSD, ve BOYFRIENDS, and now college EIU. Majoring in neroscience.

    1. Hi Susan, that made me laugh! I had 3 sisters and did a lot of the same. 😉 So glad to hear about Kayla’s bright life. I can only imagine what it’s been like for her. So glad you were there to care for her. Thank you for sharing!

  5. I was in Iraq with Jaime in 2006. I was on the road crew that repaired the crater from which the bombs were placed that killed her. She was a beautiful person and we will never forget her sacrifice. This was beautifully written thank you for your words!

    1. Wow Jeff. Thank you for reaching out. She was beautiful and we won’t ever forget! Not her, not you, not any who fought for our freedom. Thank you.

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