NAVAL SUPPORT FACILITY INDIAN HEAD, Md --
Sgt. Jeremy C. Lattimer grew up in the quiet town of Ashtabula, Ohio a far cry from the battle hardened Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, from a young age it was apparent that Lattimer had a passion for the military with a mindset that would benefit not only him but also the Marines he would one day lead and earn him the Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device, the fourth highest award given for acts of bravery.
“Jeremy had convinced me to buy him a pack of those little toy soldiers you can get for 99 cents,” said Mrs. Julie Lattimer, the mother of Sgt. Lattimer. “While we were visiting his aunt, I found him off in a room concentrating so hard while he was playing with his little army men I had to ask him why he was being so quiet.”
Lattimer then explained a very detailed and elaborate strategy to his mother about the attacks and counters the two groups would go through as they fought one another on their imaginary battlefield.
“He always wanted to be in the military,” said Mrs. Lattimer. “It was just a matter of what branch.” Lattimer said he had an idea though, from the pictures of his uncles in dress blues his grandmother had in her house, but a single day sealed his decision – Sept. 11, 2001. Lattimer, only 15 when the towers fell, was then on a mission. As soon as he turned 17, he found a Marine Corps recruiter to enter the Delayed Entry Program. However, it was not that easy for his mother who signed the parental consent form.
“We prayed about it a lot, but we knew it was what Jeremy wanted to do,” said Mrs. Lattimer. “I let (our children) make their own decisions and I try my best to fully support them.”
Not long after graduating from Lakeside High School, Lattimer left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. He graduated basic training Sept. 8, 2004 and went to the School of Infantry to become a 0311, a rifleman.
After three deployments, Lattimer found himself on his way to Afghanistan as a squad leader.
“He is the best squad leader I have had the opportunity to work with,” said Hospitalman Jerrod Francis, general duty corpsman, branch medical clinic, Camp Johnson, who was the senior platoon corpsman in Lattimer’s squad. “Before we even deployed he was reading every book he could on Afghanistan and combat tactics. He studied constantly; no one I know has put as much effort into a deployment as he does.”
His constant studying was not the only thing that made Lattimer stand out to his squad. Lattimer was known for his humility and constantly taking care of his Marines.
“He didn’t want anything better than what his guys got,” said Francis. “We ate first, we showered first, and we slept first. If at any time he was given praise he would instantly make it known it was because of the efforts of his squad not just him.”
His dedication to his squad, their success, and his unrelenting desire to lead Marines culminated on two different occasions in Helmand Province.
During the month of November, while patrolling a particularly volatile area of Helmand Province, an enemy force ambushed Lattimer and his squad, trapping them under heavy machinegun fire.
Thanks to the Ohio native’s quick and decisive judgment, Lattimer was able to maneuver his squad out of the ambush and come to the assistance of a nearby squad, also hit by the ambush. The other squad had two injured Marines in need of urgent medical care.
To insure the wounded Marines were evacuated as quickly and safely as possible, he called for close air support on the enemy’s firing position while positioning his squad to provide security to protect the medical evacuation aircraft. Lattimer then personally assisted carrying a “Fallen Angel,” what the Marine Corps calls a Marine who has made the ultimate sacrifice in battle, to the aircraft while under enemy fire.
After all was said and done, the Marines returned to their base camp with heavy hearts.
“It is so eerily quiet when you get back after losing someone,” said Lattimer. “Once one guy loses it and breaks down, and everyone follows. It was hard to fight that hard and still lose a friend.”
Despite the pain of losing Marines, the mission does not stop and neither did Lattimer and his squad.
Less than a month later as Lattimer and his squad were patrolling, he noticed a group of insurgents firing on an adjacent squad and that one of the insurgents was injured. Knowing how valuable information from a captured enemy could be, Lattimer charged through 400 meters of open fields disregarding the onslaught of enemy fire. Coordinating with close air support helped him navigate to and capture the injured insurgent.
“We are very proud of Jeremy, though not surprised about what he did,” said Mrs. Lattimer. “He has always had the courage to step up and do the right thing. He is kind, loyal, and honest. There are not too many people who are the entire package like Jeremy.”