Friends of 2nd Lt. Jered Ewy remembered the former gymnastics coach as a warm and friendly man who instilled discipline as he taught.
“He was one of those people that you didn't have to know him a long time for him to leave a lasting impression,” Kristen Squires said.
Ewy, 33, of Edmond, and Spc.
Ewy's wife, Megan, was in Maryland on Sunday night awaiting the arrival of his body at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, cousin and family spokesman Andy Burnett said.
She was not available for comment.
Ewy enlisted in the Army Rangers in 1998 and was one of the first troops on the ground in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001. He served three tours of duty and joined the Army National Guard immediately after leaving the Rangers. He earned a bachelor's in criminal justice from the University of Central Oklahoma and graduated from Officer Candidate School with the rank of second lieutenant in January, Burnett said.
Ewy and Megan were married in 2009, and their daughter, Kyla, was born in June. Ewy was stationed in South Carolina when his wife went into labor.
“He got on the first flight he could and made it all the way back here. He got here literally 15 minutes before his daughter was delivered and got to spend about three days at home with her and his family and then that was it. He flew out,” Burnett said.
“He never complained. He was going to miss the entire first year of his daughter's life and he never complained about it,” he said.
“Jered served all of us,” Burnett said.
Instead of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in the name of Megan and Kyla Ewy with the Bank of America.
Squires and Dena Edwards, both of Edmond, said they met and befriended Ewy when he coached their children in gymnastics at Oklahoma Gold in Edmond until 2006.
“He had already served and then he came back and coached. He coached our boys while he was back and he'd already been to Afghanistan,” Squires said.
“He was coaching gymnastics while he was still in college. Gym was just kind of a side job while he could finish up school,” Edwards said.
Ewy returned to active duty after finishing his college degree, Edwards said.
“I think the military was pretty much where his heart lie,” she said.
Edwards said she attended Ewy's wedding in 2009, and Megan Ewy also had coached at Oklahoma Gold, Edwards said.
“He just really cared and took an active role in our lives. We really expected that he would be a part of our lives forever,” she said.
Fond of snakes
Squires and Edwards both recalled Ewy's affinity for reptiles, and especially snakes. At one time, he had bred snakes and was also an avid hunter, Edwards said.
“He was big into snakes and reptiles when he was coaching our boys. He would come and do birthday parties. It was probably the best birthday party I've had for my youngest son,” Squires said.
“He was great with the kids. He didn't just want to teach them gymnastics. He wanted to teach them life lessons as well,” Squires said.
About the time Ewy returned to active duty, Edwards said her son, Easton, had asked her what she thought about him joining the military when he was older.
“I told him I would be scared and proud all at the same time. That's the kind of thing Jered instilled in the boys. He showed them that it was honorable to serve your country,” Edwards said.
“He was such a good example for the boys. He was disciplined, but he was fun,” she said.
Ewy and Vicari were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Oklahoma Army National Guard. Ewy's company is based in Vinita; Vicari's in Tulsa.
They are the first two Oklahoma National Guard soldiers killed in action since the 45th left for Afghanistan in June.
“This loss of life has shaken every member of the Oklahoma National Guard to their core,” said Maj. Gen. Myles L. Deering, adjutant general for Oklahoma, in a news release.
“We have lost two very brave men who once raised their hands and took an oath to defend our nation. They courageously gave everything they had to ensure our freedom and safety and their sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
“Our casualty assistance teams are currently with the families of our fallen soldiers,” Deering said. “Our hearts, prayers and support go out to their families and everyone else who has been affected by this tragedy.”
Ewy and Vicari are the sixth and seventh Oklahoma National Guard soldiers killed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said Lt. Col. Max Moss, guard spokesman. Four were killed in Iraq and now three have died in Afghanistan, Moss said.
Raised in Indiana
According to the Lowell, Ind., Post-Tribune, Vicari grew up in Lowell — about 60 miles southeast of Chicago — and graduated in 2008 from Lowell High School, his mother told the newspaper.
Vicari's wife, Holly, told the paper her husband was headed back to base when the bomb detonated.
“His personality could light up any room,” she said, calling her husband “an amazing guy.”
They were married Sept. 25 and lived in Broken Arrow, according to the Post-Tribune.
Staff Sgt. Kyle Wachtendorf, an Oklahoma National Guard member in Afghanistan, said in a letter to his father that a large crowd gathered to send off the soldiers.
“It was literally hundreds of soldiers from all over the base that had stopped everything and chose to attend the ceremony,” Wachtendorf said.
The ceremony was called at 11 p.m. and soldiers were told 10 minutes before the ceremony was to occur, he said.
“We all snapped to attention and, like dominoes, saluted the two fallen soldiers as they passed by in the ambulance on their way to the plane that would take them home for the last time,” Wachtendorf said in the letter.
Wachtendorf's letter was sent to the Tulsa World on Sunday by his father Kurt Wachtendorf.
Col. Joel P. Ward, of Claremore, commander of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said in a news release that the two soldiers fought bravely “in defense of our nation and way of life.”
“The thoughts and prayers of all Thunderbirds are with the families of our brothers who lost their lives,” Ward said.
Thunderbirds is the nickname of the unit.