Gainesville soldier honored, remembered 10 years after start of war

Published On: Mar 19 2013 11:02:41 PM EDT
Updated On: Mar 20 2013 10:00:59 AM EDT

It has been ten years since a local soldier made history before being killed in combat. He was the first to place both the American and Florida flags in Iraqi soil.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -

It has been ten years since a local soldier made history before being killed in combat. He was the first to place both the American and Florida flags in Iraqi soil.

The moment Army Specialist Jeffrey Wershow placed the Florida state flag and the American flag into the soil in Iraq was not only the start of the war but, a major accomplishment for Wershow and the Florida National Guard.

"Then, it was a huge accomplishment, but now you look back and actually get a chance to absorb it," said St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Robert Hardwick. "What we accomplished and now as the war winds down over the last two years, I mean it is just surreal, I guess you could say.

Hardwick was with 22-year old Army Specialist Jeffrey Wershow as he breached the berm between Jordan and Iraq ten years ago.

"That's him, always in front, always leading the pack," said Hardwick. "We didn't have equipment to breach that berm, so they used, as you can see in the video, or you can hear it, it's tools."

Hardwick told Channel 4 that Wershow was his best friend and was there the day Wershow made the ultimate sacrifice and lost his life, serving our country in Baghdad.

"I heard a single gunshot," said Wershow. "He was shot in the base of the skull in the back and exited in the forehead."

While Hardwick says the 10th anniversary is a somber one. He also said it's a time he will take to remember his friend's vibrant, mischievous smile, devotion to family and zest for all things politics.

In his memory, Hardwick told Channel 4 it's not only important to honor those we've lost, but to make sure wounded veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve.

"Life lost is such a high price, especially for such a young man like Jeff Wershow, but he died with honor," said Hardwick.

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