Hero gets Purple Heart

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 21, 2005

Jeremy Chandler looked into the eyes of the suicide bomber seconds before the explosion rocked the half-track vehicle Chandler was driving.

The blast threw Chandler from the vehicle. It burned his face and left him deaf and blind for several hours.

The suicide bomber died instantly. Chandler, along with the three other soldiers in the vehicle, survived.

This is the story that the 22-year-old Dallas County native told his grandparents, Martha and J.T. Chandler, shortly after the attack.

The incident earned Specialist Jeremy Chandler, who has been serving in Iraq with the National Guard 1088 Engineer Battalion, a Purple Heart.

“When he came home on leave on Jan. 18, his vision had returned and his hearing was 90 percent back, but he still had headaches,” said Martha.

Chandler is now back in Baghdad, fully recovered and continuing his mission as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“He called me three weeks ago to tell me the General awarded him a Purple Medal,” Martha said.

He has had a few other close-calls during his tour of duty, his grandparents said, including a mortar that hit his Hummer, blowing the tires off and causing the truck to crash in a ditch.

Chandler, a 2001 graduate of Dallas County High, plans to reenlist once his tour is complete in October.

“He says he wants to be a soldier full-time,” Martha said. “He told me he wanted to re-enlist for 20 years.”

His commitment to the U.S. military came as no surprise to his grandparents, who raised him in Plantersville since he was six-years-old.

“He always said he wanted to be a soldier,” Martha said. “He used to play soldier with his friends behind our house.”

The Chandler’s also recalled a Christmas when their grandson wanted nothing but army things.

“He even wanted some of those MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat). We had to look all over for those things. We finally got the Clanton Armory to order us some. Now, Jeremy says he’s sick of them because he eats them three meals a day,” Martha said.

Chandler fulfilled his dream soon after graduating from high school. He enlisted in the Army for two years, just barely missing the first round of deployments to Iraq.

He went on to attend college at Louisiana State University before joining the Police Academy and becoming a Sheriff’s Deputy in the East Baton Rouge Parish.

Chandler joined the National Guard in early 2004 and was sent to Iraq this past October.

The Purple Heart is not the only medal he has earned since becoming a National Guardsman. During his mobilization training at Fort Hood in Texas, he was awarded the Army Achievement medal.

Both of the medals, along with several pictures and souvenirs from Baghdad, are in his grandparents’ care.

“He told us we deserved to keep the medals, because we encouraged him to make something of himself,” Martha said.

Martha and J. T. say they are proud of their grandson, because not only did he make something of himself he became a hero.