A solemn procession of over 40 fire, emergency and police vehicles led the motorcade from the Iowa/Wisconsin border Tuesday afternoon as the communities of Hazel Green and Cuba City welcomed home one of their own.
Staff Sergeant Jesse Grindey will be laid to rest this week after his death in Afghanistan last Monday, March 12. The cause of his death is still under investigation and as the U.S. Army investigates Grindey's death, the family asks for privacy and understanding.
Staff Sgt. Grindey, 30, of Hazel Green died Monday in Kandahar province, according to the Department of Defense.
Staff Sgt. Grindey's body returned home Tuesday after arriving at the Dubuque Regional Airport at approximately 12 p.m. The large motorcade procession followed from the airport through Dubuque and Highway 11 eventually leading through Grindey's hometown of Hazel Green. Over 2,000 American Flags draped the Hazel Green community. Larry Eckhart, from Little York, Ill., has made it his personal mission to help honor our fallen soldiers by displaying flags during ceremonies such as Staff Sgt. Grindey's.
Staff Sgt. Grindey, who joined the Army 10 years ago, was a military policeman assigned to the 287th Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion based at Fort Riley, Kan. It was his second deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
Grindey is being hailed a hero in the town he felt so proud to be a part of. Former Hazel Green Police Chief and current Lafayette County deputy, Mike Gorham recalls a young man with a passion like none other to become a police officer. "He wanted to be a police officer more than anything," Gorham said. "He worked hard at achieving that goal by joining the fire department and later the rescue squad in Hazel Green."
Gorham said Staff Sgt. Grindey came from very humble beginnings. "He was a very down to earth person. He overcame challenges and had a positive, upbeat attitude and used that to face adversity. If you told him he couldn't do something, he was a person who believed in himself that he would and set a goal to do so."
Gorham said Staff Sgt. Grindey's family is hurting immensely right now. "He was always willing to try and help people and he would give his shirt off his back to help a stranger," Gorham said. "Jesse was positive and fun to be around. He always had a smile on his face and all the way to his core, he was just a good person. A loss like Jesse can't be replaced."
Grindey also left a lasting impression on the local Hazel Green Fire Department. John Berning, a member of the fire department said Grindey was a pretty neat young kid growing up. "I had him in scouts and baseball and he was a good kid, just like any other kid," Berning said. "As he grew up, his attitude switched to the fire department when he was a senior in high school. He wanted to be on the calls and would always stay and clean the trucks and put hoses away. I assume he was just the same in the service and paid the same attention to detail. He was just an awful good kid."
Jesse's mom, Sara said she is overwhelmed with the support. "I want to thank everyone for the support," Sara said. "It's overwhelming and I am speechless. Between the community and the army we can't believe it."
Berning said the loss of Staff Sgt. Grindey will have a lasting affect on the entire department. "This is affecting our whole department," Berning said. "He was on leave in November before he got called back to Afghanistan in December and during his leave, he made a lot of calls. He has always been a part of us and always will be."
For now, the Grindey family will focus on family and spend the days caring for Jesse and Mary's two young children, three-year old Jesse Jr. and two-year old Joanna. The Grindey families are asking for privacy and respect as they bury their son, husband, brother, father and friend. Funeral services will be held on Thursday at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Hazel Green. Burial will be held on Friday in the church cemetery. See the full obituary on page 6.
In lieu of flowers a SSG Jesse J. Grindey Memorial Fund has been established at any of the American Bank locations. The Cuba City location is 100 N. Main Street, Cuba City, WI 53807. Online condolences may be left for the family at www.haudenshieldfuneralhome.com