When I was in the military I had the unfortunate experience of burying one of my closest friends, mentor, and brother-in-law. Prior to joining the military, SSG Jeremy A. Katzenberger was a resident of Kansas City. He is currently buried at Fort Leavenworth, KS among some of our nation's greatest heroes.
Despite the terrible experience, many positive memories resonate with me about bringing his remains back home to Kansas City.
I remember looking down the street as I exited my vehicle at the airport where his body was arriving, and seeing a seemingly endless number of motorcycles (Patriot Guard Riders), police officers (Kansas City Missouri Police Department), and a couple hundred bystanders who came to pay their respect to a fallen patriot.
I remember the ride from the airport to the funeral home. Individuals from all over the city came to line overpasses on our route to the funeral home. Children waving American flags and parents crying.
Finally, I remember the day we buried Jeremy. Exiting the vehicle at the funeral home that day, I was shaking slightly at the thought of the eulogy I was giving later looming over my head. I entered the funeral home from a back entrance and began to rehearse with the other pallbearers. When Jeremy's remains exited the funeral home carried by six, I remember being taken back by the beauty of what I was seeing. Hundreds of people quietly mourning the loss of a hero. The sunshine peeking through the trees shining on American flags placed strategically up and down the street. My sister standing there with Jeremy's six-month-old son. Her tears silently ran down her face as her son innocently missed the gravitas of the situation.
As the other pallbearers and I made our way to Fort Leavenworth ahead of the funeral procession, I nervously waited to see the planned protest positioned in front of the entrance to the base. Westboro Baptist intended to make their presence known with signs demeaning Jeremy's sacrifice and the wars being fought by my fellow brothers-in-arms. I desperately wanted to save my sister from seeing any attack on her husband. To my delighted surprise, people of Kansas City, the Patriot's Guard, and military personnel from the base blocked any view of the funeral procession seeing the signs being presented by a hateful group.
T-minus five minutes to the chapel, we slowly rode down Fort Leavenworth's streets. There were hundreds of people lining the streets. American flags hung from the ladders of fire trucks. Some held signs of support for Jeremy and my sister.
As I carried Jeremy's body into the chapel, I was completely blown away by the number of attendees. 2,500 people had shown up to show their respects to a fallen patriot. My heart began to thump as I considered I would be speaking in front of these individuals in just a few minutes. I slowly walked on the stage, straightened out my uniform as I approached the podium, and looked out over the crowd before I began my speech. I saw tears from most, sobbing from a few, but most of all I saw American's who cared.
I don't remember my speech, nor do I remember a lot of the other events on my Journey home with Jeremy, but I do remember the outpour of support from this great nation. Specifically, I remember Kansas City rallying behind one of its own.
With no shortage of negative publicity out there, I believe it is important to remember we are all very blessed to live in an amazing country.
My dream for KC Cattle Company is to become a brand that gives back to this amazing city that has done so much for me and mine. This picture that you see of us folding the flag is a reminder I keep on my website to where my roots are based and why I am trying to build this business. It serves to keep me grounded and it works every time I see that picture and remember Jeremy.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
- John 15:13