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'America's Battalion' dedicates make-shift gym to fallen warrior in Iraq

31 Aug 2006 | Sgt. Roe F. Seigle

Marines who knew Staff Sgt. Jason C. Ramseyer will tell you that he loved three things – his family, his Marines and going to the gym.

Ramseyer, 28, died April 21, 2006, in the western Al Anbar Province of Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded near him. 

To honor the fallen warrior, Marines from Ramseyer’s unit, the Hawaii-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which arrived in Iraq in March, dedicated the make-shift gym in the Marines’ headquarters – the Haditha Dam – in honor of the Lenoir, N.C., native.  

In a simple ceremony Aug. 20, 2006, the Marines named the gym “Ram’s Dam Gym.” The small gym, which consists of various workout benches, free weights, televisions and a radio, features new equipment and enclosure around the facility.

Since the Marines’ arrival in Iraq, they have honored their fallen by naming facilities after them.  The Marines assigned to the battalion’s Weapons Company named their forward operating base “Camp Lueken,” after Cpl. Eric Lueken, 23, who also perished in a roadside blast, just one day after Ramseyer was killed. 

On the highest level of the Haditha Dam, the Marines’ communications shop at the dam was named after Cpl. Andres Aguilar, 21, who died in a vehicle accident April 2, 2006.  Aguilar, from Victoria, Texas, and Lueken, from Dubois, Ind., were both assigned to 3rd Battalion. 

The Marines hung a plaque near the gym’s entrance, officially commemorating it to Ramseyer’s memory.

A partially completed painting of Ramseyer is just below the plaque.

“Staff Sgt. Ramseyer loved his job and the gym,” said Sgt. Michael Ferguson, 23, who served as a platoon sergeant on the Jump CP, the battalion commander’s personal security element, with Ramseyer.  “He went to the gym every chance he could get.”

Ramseyer was the platoon commander for the battalion’s Jump CP. He was hand-selected by Lt. Col. Norman L. Cooling, the battalion’s commanding officer, for this position  – a duty his Marines say he performed with consummate professionalism and unparalleled valor. 

Ramseyer was responsible for providing security to the commanding officer and his staff.  He and his Marines served as a quick reaction force that was equipped to respond to combat situations on a moment’s notice. 

He frequently traveled Al Anbar Province’s roads, and was exposed to small arms fire and roadside bombs.

Although Ramseyer, a nine-year veteran of the Marine Corps, was a common site in the dam’s gym, Marines say they will remember him as a family man who would never put his Marines in a dangerous situation that he was not willing to put himself in first. 

“His Marines respected him because he treated them, regardless of rank, with the respect and dignity they deserved.  He was a great friend and a great Marine,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael Kiernan, 33, company gunnery sergeant for the battalion’s Weapons Company. “We all miss him.” 

Kiernan wears a “Hero Bracelet” on his right wrist bearing Staff Sgt. Ramseyer’s name - something he said he “will never take off.” 

Ferguson said he and Ramseyer would often have competitions on the bench press and motivated each other to keep physically fit. 

“When we were not on missions, we were in the gym,” said Ferguson.  “He knew how to motivate all his Marines. He was a true leader and it is just not the same without him.” 

Now, as long as Marines are in Iraq and living in the Haditha Dam, they will be reminded of Ramseyer every time they enter the gym, said Ferguson. 

Marines here agree that the naming of the gym was the best way they could honor Ramseyer because he spent most of his off-time in the gym. 

“We all miss him,” said Ferguson.  “Now we will be reminded of his sacrifices every time we go to the gym.  He will never be forgotten.”

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