Explosive device claims life of Eudora resident’s young relative
The war in Iraq hit close to home last week for Eudora residents Becky and Terry Mills.
Their nephew Sgt. Jerry Mills, Jr., was killed when an improvised explosive device exploded near his vehicle in Taji, Iraq.
The blast took both Mills' life and the life of Sgt. Donald Hasse, 28.
Both Hasse and Mills were stationed at Fort Riley as part of the 1st Battalion of the 13th Armor Regiment.
The explosion shocked residents Mills' hometown of Arkansas City, and his family in Eudora.
"We found out Tuesday evening between five and six, probably an hour after his dad was notified," Becky said. "My reaction was, 'This is not true, this is unbelievable.' I mean, you're numb."
Becky said her family spent a lot of time with Jerry. He's the same age as her daughter Emily, who graduated from Eudora High School in 2002.
The last time Becky and her family saw Jerry was the Fourth of July weekend.
"We're doing OK. I mean, we're going to be with family this weekend, so it's kind of one of those things," Becky said Friday. "There are times when it's OK, and there's times when it's hard. You just kind of go in and out. It's in waves."
Becky said she had been following the news concerning the war in Iraq and had asked about Jerry at family functions.
"It was a pretty big shock. We were down there over Thanksgiving asking when he's going to come home," Becky said.
Other members of Becky's family have also taken it hard. Emily is no exception.
"She was angry, and sad," Becky said.
Terry said he was very fond of his nephew.
"We were close. I tried to go there to see him every time he was home," Terry said.
He said his strongest memory of his nephew was his smile.
"He was always smiling, and he was always happy."
Terry especially noticed it during the Fourth of July visit.
"When he came home he was just partying and having a good time and enjoying himself before he had to go back," Terry said. "It was like he was living like he knew he wouldn't come back or something."
Jerry's death hasn't changed how Terry and Becky view America's effort in Iraq.
"My views are about the same," Becky said. "I support the soldiers because this is what they are sent to do.
"I'm not happy with them being there, but it's the way it is and we have to make the best of it."
Terry had a similar view.
"They're doing what they have to do to end this terrorism, and I support them all the way." He said.
The Mills' will continue to support efforts and remember their nephew.
"He was a good kid," Becky said. "We're going to mourn the loss for a long time.
"Unfortunately there are a lot of other families that are dealing with the same grief. I'm just thankful that he died a hero."