Iowa’s first female to die in the Iraq conflict was buried Wednesday after hundreds of mourners packed a small church in her hometown of Iowa Falls to remember the sailor’s life.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jaime Jaenke, 29, was killed June 5 when her Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb in the Al Anbar province.
She was buried in Alden, leaving behind a 9-year-old daughter and other family who described the Navy reservist as a caring woman.
“Jaime is without a doubt the kind of person the world will miss,” said Tifani Eisentrager, Jaenke’s cousin. “Jaime’s life, without a doubt, was taken too soon. We mourn her death and will always remember her fondly.” Jaenke was activated in January and had been serving as a paramedic in Iraq for less than three months before her death. She was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25 at Fort McCoy, Wis. Her unit was involved in reconstructing the country, building infrastructure such as schools and wells.
“She was caring and giving. Those are the type of people you want to be around you,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Esteban Burgoa, who trained with Jaenke for a couple weeks in California before being deployed in March.
“If there is someone you want to be friends with in life, she’s it.” Burgoa watched with tear-filled eyes as Jaenke’s family and close friends released red, white and blue balloons on Wednesday. It was his second funeral in less than 24 hours. Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Rovinski of Roseville, Ill., died in the same attack and was buried Tuesday.
Recalling how Jaenke once cared for his injured hand, Burgoa said: “Gosh, she’s just like an angel.” Several of Jaenke’s medals were given to her parents during an awards ceremony at the funeral. She received the Purple Heart and Navy Marine Corp. Commendation Medal with “V” for valor, Navy Reserve Meritorious Service Medal, Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal and a combat action ribbon. Jaenke completed 25 missions in Iraq, safely escorting 375 personnel.
Jaenke had been volunteering as an emergency medical technician in Ellsworth, Wis., before moving back to Iowa Falls in July to run the family’s horse training facility. She also enrolled in the nursing program at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls.
“Her dream was to be a nurse,” Eisentrager said. “She did what she loved doing, which is help others and serve her country.”
— The Associated Press / Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
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