AL ASAD, Iraq -- More than 450 sailors, Marines and soldiers attended a memorial service here for two Navy Seabees June 10.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jamie S. Jaenke, 29, of Bay City, Wis., and Petty Officer 1st Class Gary T. Rovinski, 44, of Roseville, Ill., were killed in a roadside explosion while conducting convoy security operations June 5. Both Seabees are with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25, 9th Naval Construction Regiment, 1st Naval Construction Division.
Even though hundreds of U.S. troops came to honor the fallen, the large venue was nearly silent until the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing band began to perform. As Marine musicians played military tunes, images from the lives of Rovinski and Jaenke were projected upon the stage.
The donation of images from the battalion allowed mourners to reflect upon the lives of these two selfless individuals.
Rovinski chose to help others by operating heavy equipment. Jaenke practiced healing. Both became Seabees so they could help build a better future for others.
"Gary was dedicated to the mission of building a better place - a place where life and freedom could emerge," said Lt. Cmdr. Peter Muschinske, chaplain, NMCB-25. "Jamie, both at her work, at home and in her work as a corpsman, practiced the art of healing to rescue, to save lives."
Muschinske emphasized that even though Rovinski and Jaenke are gone, the unit must continue on in their memory.
"Now one of the things that is different between those who have been killed in action and those who have wounds of war is that they are relying upon us," said Muschinske, a Marshfield, Wis., native. "They are counting on us to continue this mission for the sake of life. We are called on to keep pressing forward, just as long as we're called to serve here."
Many present didn't know Rovinski or Jaenke personally, but members of NMCB-25 expressed stories that gave them insight into the lives of the two Seabees.
"Let me share with you a brief snapshot of who they were," said Cmdr. David Marasco, commanding officer, NMCB-25, who presented the opening remarks. "Gary was a devoted husband to (his wife), Jennifer, devoted father to (his children), Micheala and Cecilia, and a son to (his mother), Carmella. He worked as a corrections officer back home, was a passionate Christian and a true patriot, who in the words of his wife, 'He had a love for God and a love for his country, and he felt very strongly that what he was doing was God's will.'
"Jamie was a loving mother to (her daughter), Kayla, and a very loved daughter of Larry and Susan," continued Marasco, a Lake View, Ill., native. "She worked as an emergency medical technician back home, and as a hospital corpsman. She willingly accepted risks in order to put herself in a better position to help others."
Key speakers at the service included friends of Rovinski and Jaenke who were from the same convoy security team. These members collected and shared the thoughts of others in the battalion who had also worked closely with them.
"EO1 Gary Rovinski was not someone to stand in the spotlight," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Ludwig, NMCB-25 and Milwaukee, native. "He performed his work in the wings, often giving of himself in ways people did not know. When he saw that someone was having trouble with something or needed help, he would step in and lend a hand. Some things would not slip under the radar though; his service to his country, shipmates, family, and the Lord were always evident."
Rovinski deeply believed in his faith. He would openly share and exchange his thoughts with others who wished to discuss the larger role of healing in our lives.
"His faith and happiness for God and life really made him who he was," said Ludwig during the service. "He loved his family and his faith. There is no doubt that Gary believed in serving our country and what we're doing here in Iraq. Gary, you will be missed, but rest assured, you will never be forgotten our fallen brother."
Jaenke was also highly influential to the unit's operation and well-being. Many expressed deep regret over her loss.
"Jamie was a beautiful person," said Petty Officer 1st Class Dan Coakley, NMCB-25. "She had a contagious smile. She always had a mischievous grin on her face as if she were laughing at some inside joke. She told us she first became interested in caring for others while visiting with an elderly neighbor who had been an emergency medical technician for over 20 years."
Occasionally, members of the convoy team rotate on and off the crew. Once, Jamie was tasked to help others for a while. "It crushed her not to be with us," said Coakley, a North Aurora, Ill., native. "Just a few short weeks ago we found out that she was coming back. We all hugged her and said welcome back. Of course she already had the usual grin on her face as if she already knew it would happen.
"She cared deeply about her responsibility of being our doc," continued Coakley. "She always made us feel that if anything bad happened to us while we were out on a convoy, she would be able to keep us calm and focused."
Coakley said it was a nightmare when they realized they had lost their corpsman from the explosion and that they would have to take care of the wounded on their own.
"I think she would have been very proud of how her fellow Seabees took care of each other that day," said Coakley. "She was our guardian angel here on earth - and she will be our guardian angel in heaven."
Marasco best summed up the universal feelings that members of the battalion held for these Seabees. "Gary and Jamie, you were our shipmates, friends, extremely well liked, revered, and I was proud to have you both in our command," said Marasco. "You were true leaders of 'Can Do!' And I speak for all your fellow shipmates of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Two-Five, the 9th Naval Construction Regiment, and the 1st Naval Construction Division, when I say - you will be missed."