A father remembers his fallen son
Jared Krutke found his calling at an early age.
He tagged along with his father, Gary, one afternoon when he was 14-years-old to the local gun range.
Gary was able to convince one of his friends to let Jared shoot a machine gun for the first time.
The results were instantaneous.
"He was hooked," Gary said.
Soon, Jared got to be pretty good with a rifle and when one factors in his family history --- Gary and generations before Jared have served in the military --- everyone who knew Jared could see it coming.
"He hadn't even graduated from high school and wanted to sign up for the military," Gary said.
Jared signed up for the U.S. Navy in 2001, thanks to his father's advice.
"I told him if you wanted to get an education, go to the Navy," he said. "If you wanted to be a combat soldier, join the Army."
He quickly moved up the ranks within in the Naval Academy.
"At 24, he was already in a supervisor role," Gary said. "He was doing what he wanted to do. He was going to make a career out of the Navy."
The career lasted tragically only five years as Jared died on March 15--about a month away from returning home.
And his death didn't occur in Iraq or Afghanistan. No, it happened in Guam. To make the death more tragic, it wasn't of natural causes--it was murder by a fellow Naval sailor.
Gary, who has been a Prescott police officer for the last seven years, got the news the previous night from Jared's wife, Nicole, that something had happened to Jared.
So Gary, after an hour's pursuit, was able to find the Commander of Jared's outfit, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74, Timothy Dewitt, the unit deployed out of Gulfport, Miss.
"He said Jared was shot in the front temporal lobe," Gary recalled.
"With what?" Gary's response.
"A 9MM," Dewitt replied.
"Why?" Gary said.
Two months later, he's still waiting for a response.
From the second and sometimes third-hand information Gary was able to collect that night, Jared, who was a Petty Officer, 2nd class, was in charge of maintaining, assigning and checking the weapons, etc. He heard a nearby shot and went to investigate. What he found was a black soldier by the name of Simms had shot a white soldier named T.J. in the abdomen (he's expected to make a full recovery). After a struggle, Simms shot Jared. Simms and T.J. were soldiers who worked under Jared.
"Simms' life is ruined, but at least his parents still have him," Gary said.
What happened next is unknown. Even the previous information listed Gary hasn't been able to confirm. He doesn't think he'll ever find out the complete story.
"I'll never expect to get the full truth," he said. "I'm real skeptical when it comes to the military."
And this is coming from a man who has been in the military since 1979 and even served in Iraq during 2004-2005.
"We had stress (in Iraq), but we never took it out on each other," he said. "I'd like to think this was an isolated incident in which there was one bad apple that shouldn't have been there."
In hindsight, Gary revealed that, before Jared's unit was deployed in October, half were assigned to Iraq and the other half went to Guam.
"I wish he could've been deployed to Iraq," he said. "It would have been a lot safer."
Jared's body was returned stateside March 26 to prepare for the funeral held March 29 in Sheboygan.
With Gary every step of the way through the process was his wife Cami, for which he was grateful.
"She was the biggest unsung hero in this," he said. "She was strong and took care of everything. If she wasn't around, I'd gotten into trouble."
All four branches of the military were well represented at the funeral. What touched Gary the most was seeing the Patriot Guard, a group of predominantly former veterans from the four branches, lining American flags all up and down the gravesite and how they stood over everything from the wake to the funeral.
"It was a sight to see," he said.
There's an old adage that time heals all wounds.
It's been nearly two months since Gary buried his son and he has a succinct answer to that statement.
"That's BS," he said. He continued, "I'm still bitter. I don't want to forget because one of my biggest fears is not remembering my son."
He told the story of how Cami lost a brother to illness at least 20 years ago. Her father, in tears, went up to Gary at the funeral and offered the following advice.
"He said was 'All you can do is live with it. It's never going to go away'," Gary recalled.
"The pain is the same whether you're 90 or 60."
"There's hasn't been a day that goes by in which I don't think of him. Not one."
Jared was survived by his wife Nicole and the couple's 19-month-old daughter Elizabeth; mother and stepfather Jackie and Larry Walston of Sheboygan; Gary and Cami; two sisters, Brittany Krutke and Jasmine Walston; one brother, Joe Krutke; and by other friends and family.