Feb 25 2016
Speech on Senate Floor is Second in Series Paying Tribute to Nebraska Heroes
WASHINGTON – This afternoon, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) spoke on the Senate floor as part of her new initiative honoring Nebraskans who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout this year and beyond, Senator Fischer will deliver remarks as a memorial to each of these heroes.
Her maiden speech in January told the story of Sergeant Josh Ford, who was killed in Iraq in 2006. Today, she paid tribute to Sergeant Jeffrey Hansen of Cairo, Nebraska. Sergeant Hansen lost his life in a Humvee accident in Iraq in 2006.
Below is the full transcript of today’s speech featuring Sergeant Jeff Hansen of Cairo, Nebraska:
M. President, I rise today to continue my tribute to this current generation of Nebraska heroes by remembering those who died defending our freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Each of our fallen Nebraskans has a special story to tell.
Over the next year and beyond, I will continue to devote time here on the Senate floor to remember each of them in a special tribute to their life and service to our country.
Time after time, Nebraska’s Gold Star families tell me the same thing.
They hope and pray that the supreme sacrifices of their loved ones will always be remembered.
Today, I want to celebrate the life of Sergeant Jeffrey Hansen of Cairo, Nebraska.
Jeff grew up with the heart of a soldier.
He enjoyed an All-American childhood, spending time outdoors, hunting, playing football, and staying in shape.
Born in Minden, Nebraska, and a 1993 graduate of Bertrand High School, Jeff attended college at the University of Nebraska in Kearney before graduating in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training.
Over the years, the urge to serve his country tugged at Jeff.
He decided to enlist with the Nebraska Army National Guard in January of 2000.
A natural leader, he quickly rose through the ranks, serving as an assistant squad leader, fire team leader, and squad leader before his last assignment as a fire support sergeant.
Jeff exhibited outstanding leadership as a member of Troop A in the 1-167th Cavalry of the Nebraska Army National Guard.
Friends remember Jeff as an awesome teacher and amazing mentor.
Sergeant Brad Jessen recalls how Jeff was very soft spoken, but always had something intelligent to say.
In civilian life, Jeff became a Kearney police officer in 2002, and later joined the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Police Force in Grand Island.
James Arends, who worked with him as a sergeant in the VA Police Service, said, “Jeff was the strong, silent type. He didn’t talk a lot, but when he did, people listened.”
Jeff was also a loving husband.
He met his wife Jenny at a football game at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Fate brought them together, and they began a natural and comfortable relationship that blossomed quickly.
Jenny excelled at golf in college.
Jeff would attend her tournaments, cheering her on as the team progressed to a winning season.
Then, after the final round of the 2002 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf Tournament, Jeff came up to Jenny on the 18th green, where he knelt down and proposed.
That same year, Jeff was promoted to sergeant and recognized for outstanding gunnery marksmanship.
Jeff and Jenny also began discussing their future plans.
Their talks became more intense when Jeff’s unit, the 1-167th Cavalry, was called to duty in Bosnia.
Jeff and Jenny wasted no time, and they were married on October 12, 2002.
Two days later, Jeff left for Bosnia.
After 11 months, Jeff returned home, and the two settled down back in Cairo, Nebraska.
A world away, the war in Iraq continued.
By the fall of 2005, the American public was hopeful that major military operations in the region would be coming to an end.
However, the bombing of al-Askari mosque in February of 2006 ignited a Sunni-Shia civil war that plunged Iraq deeper into violence.
At that time, the American military was operating as a peacekeeping force, but things quickly turned deadly and the coalition found themselves engaged in dramatic wartime operations.
Jeff’s unit arrived in Iraq just before the al-Askari mosque bombing.
Operating out of Balad Air Base, his unit, “the Cav,” was known for their ability to complete security operations in one of the most violent areas of the country.
The days were long, and with each mission, they faced imminent danger.
All the while, Jeff kept his head in the game and inspired his battle buddies to do the same.
While Jeff was gone, Jenny remained active and continued to excel on the golf course.
She won the Nebraska women's state amateur championship and qualified for the 2006 U.S. Women's Amateur Open.
As she continued to advance, Jenny began thinking about playing the sport professionally.
So she wrote to Jeff, asking for his guidance and thoughts on this important new stage, one they would share and navigate on their journey together.
Back in Iraq, Jeff headed out on patrol, where conditions worsened with limited visibility.
Out of nowhere, Jeff’s Humvee hit a sinkhole and flipped, landing upside down in a canal.
As this was unfolding, Jeff pushed the other soldiers out of the vehicle, all of whom survived the crash.
Meanwhile, Jeff was still in the Humvee, critically injured.
Sergeant Brad Jessen remained at the scene, keeping Jeff alive until the medical team arrived.
Jeff was quickly flown to Germany for emergency care.
Jenny was at work when the phone rang.
“There’s been an accident,” she was told, “we need you to come to Germany.”
It seemed like an eternity before Jenny was able to reach Jeff's side at the hospital in Germany.
But as soon as she arrived, it was clear Jeff was not going to make it home.
He passed away a few days later with Jenny at his side.
She returned home to Nebraska, saying goodbye to Jeff one last time, and bracing for a life without the man she loved.
Shortly after the funeral, a letter arrived.
It was from Jeff, a reply to her questions about golf and their future.
He had written to tell his wife to pursue her dream.
He told her to find the focus and dedication she yearned for in her life.
If there was something she wanted to pursue, he would support her, every step of the way.
Jenny pursued her dream.
She competed for, and earned, a spot on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour and played in a number of professional tournaments.
But as any Nebraskan can understand, “The Good Life” pulled her back.
Today, she is the mother of three beautiful children.
She still reads the letter from Jeff every once in a while.
Jeff is with her, every day, in her heart.
For his service in Iraq, Jeff was awarded the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal.
He was also posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the Army Good Conduct Medal, and the Overseas Service Ribbon.
Jeff is survived by his widow, Jenny, his father, Robert, and his brother, Jeremy.
Our nation, and all Nebraskans, are forever indebted to his service and sacrifice.
Sergeant Jeffrey Hansen is a hero, and I’m honored to tell his story, lest we forget his life and the freedom he fought to defend.
Thank you, M. President. I yield.
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