Fallen soldier's memorial 'fills hole' in family's heart
PARKSTON -- Jeremiah Boehmer earned the nickname "Flame" for his outgoing and radiant personality. Then, in 2006, Boehmer's life was cut short at the age of 22 when he was killed while serving his country in Iraq. This week, Boehmer's shining spi...
PARKSTON - Jeremiah Boehmer earned the nickname "Flame" for his outgoing and radiant personality.
Then, in 2006, Boehmer's life was cut short at the age of 22 when he was killed while serving his country in Iraq.
This week, Boehmer's shining spirit was celebrated in the form of a 700-pound, 3-feet tall concrete memorial. The stone is in the shape of a castle with a propane hook-up to allow flames, aptly in honor of Boehmer's nickname, to shoot out of the top of the structure.
"This kind of filled a hole in my heart," said Jessica Wolf, Boehmer's sister, who commissioned the monument. "I see this rock and - not that I ever forgot - but it reminds me of the who my brother was."
Every etch, every detail has a purpose in the memorial installed Tuesday in front of Wolf's home in Parkston, which also houses Parkston Chiropractic Clinic, marking the end of a three-months long process.
The castle serves as the logo for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wolf said, and its unfinished appearance represents the incompleteness of Boehmer's life. At the time of his death, Boehmer was a member of the Arctic Sappers, part of 562nd Engineer Co., 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. According to Wolf, the Sappers are often tasked with surveying an area before a convoy travels through, ensuring the rest of the unit's safety.
On Feb. 5, 2006, Boehmer, a 2002 Parkston High School graduate, and Staff Sgt. Christopher Morningstar, both demolition experts, were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Iraq.
Boehmer was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal, and his family was presented with gold star lapel pins given to families who've lost loved ones in the line of duty.
To illustrate both the Sappers' and Boehmer's strength, the recently-installed memorial's castle is enveloped by a mountain. At the base of the structure, "562nd" is engraved to commemorate Boehmer's commitment to serving his unit.
"Mountains are strong, they're rugged," Wolf said. "It's such a great representation of how unique my brother was, but it also represents his unit and everything he stood for."
The memorial was designed and created by Chad Guthmiller, owner of Artisan Concrete Concepts, in Scotland. Guthmiller has been an artisan for three years, but said this is the first piece he has done in memory of a fallen soldier.
So, as with all of the pieces he has done, he took the time to get to know his customer.
But this time was different.
Typically, Guthmiller said it takes him several days or weeks after talking to a potential client to come up with a sketch of the project, but he had a blueprint for Wolf's piece in just a few hours.
"If I'm going to spend so much time on a piece, it doesn't take much longer to visit with a client," Guthmiller said. "I'm the artisan, but my clients are the artists; it's in those conversations that we come up with the ideas, and Jessica described her brother so vividly, I noticed his and I's personalities are very similar, so it just really flowed after that. It was a truly humbling experience."
Wolf describes her brother as "a little bit on the wild side" and one of the most caring people she's ever met. Five years older than Boehmer, Wolf said the two had a unique bond that hasn't been broken since his death.
His nickname "Flame" came from an incident in which Boehmer was attempting to jump over a fire pit, missed and caught on fire himself, which came as no surprise to his family.
"He really was a free-spirited individual that I wish I could be. He just enjoyed life and wasn't so stressed about things," Wolf said. "He never wanted you to worry about him."
And Boehmer's positive attitude when talking about his experiences overseas helped ease Wolf's worries while her brother was overseas. Even now, 10 years later, her eyes light up when she talks about how appreciative she is that her brother chose to join the Army.
"To me, it made him a better person ... He just had more of a direction in life after that," Wolf said. "Do I get sad over my brother? Absolutely. But, still, I want to remember him - I want to remember the ultimate sacrifice he made for me and for all of us."
And, although difficult at times, Wolf said having the new memorial for her brother installed has brought back some of the memories she's lost sight of in the past 10 years. Through sharing pictures of the memorial on Facebook, Wolf said she feels like her brother's story is reaching a new audience, in turn keeping Boehmer's memory alive.
For Wolf, the revival couldn't have come at a better time.
"It's brought back emotional memories ... but you start to remember those other memories that you tuck away and don't think about every day," Wolf said. "With the 10-year milestone just past, it was good timing to bring back some of those memories that sometimes you need to remember."