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The story goes that Jared Raymond turned to his mother, Jaclyn, when she picked him up at school on Sept. 11, 2001 and said, “Mom, we have to do something for this country.”
Jared Raymond did, in fact, do something. He joined the United States Army in 2004 a month after graduating from Swampscott High School and got sent to Iraq to fight. He was another fresh-faced boy in another war halfway around the world.
Raymond was killed on Sept. 19, 2006 while serving in Iraq. Local veterans at the time said Raymond was the first Swampscott resident counted as a casualty of war since 1970. Journalist and Swampscott resident Michael Kelly was killed in Iraq in April 2003.
Raymond’s death would be followed six months later by the death of town resident and United States Marine Jennifer Harris, making Swampscott another small town in America bearing the sorrow of a son and a daughter lost to war.
When a community loses a child to war it subtracts part of itself. War memorials are one way to acknowledge the diminishment. In big cities or little towns like Swampscott, the granite plaques are reminders that losses were made for a greater good and for a cause saluted by a grateful nation.
Jared Raymond, according to people who knew him and loved him, cared about his town. “He had great faith,” is the way Raymond’s pastor described the 20-year-old who was so moved by the attacks on his country that he enlisted in the military, completed basic training and went into combat as a young man forced to grow up and look through the eyes of an adult much earlier in life than many of his peers.
When the town buried Jared Raymond, other young residents who had enlisted for the same reasons as Raymond found a way to get home and remember their friend. No one had to tell them to return and pay their respects. At a young age, they had already learned how men and women in combat rely on one another to stay alive. They equated that bond with honor and they understood, perhaps without putting their thoughts into words, that the obligation they embraced by enlisting in the military extended to remembering the inevitable number of comrades and friends they stood to lose in combat.
More than 11 years after Raymond’s death and 10 years after Harris’ death, young men and women continue to enlist in the military for reasons that only veterans can really understand. It is easy to explain the desire to serve one’s country as a calling, or an invitation to adventure, or an opportunity to obtain educational benefits. But there is another, more intangible reason why people just starting their lives shoulder a responsibility that puts them in close proximity with death.
Jaclyn Raymond can define that reason: Her son explained to her on Sept. 11, 2001. His words are why we can never forget Jared Raymond’s sacrifice and why we must always remember his name.