America's Fallen Hero's
SFC Richard J. Herrema
Sergeant 1st Class Richard J. Herrema’s life was cut short during an April 2006 Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment, but his spirit has endured in the way he is remembered. Rick had a deep love for his fellow man, his family, and his country. When Rick claimed you as a friend, he was your friend for life, and for the 27 years Rick lived he never stopped serving others.
Born March 28, 1979, in Grand Rapids, Michigan,Rick entered the Army as an infantryman in 1999. His first assignment sent him to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He completed the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 2003. Rick graduated as an 18D Special Forces Medical Sergeant and was later selected for another special operations unit.
When you speak with those who knew Rick, his selfless service to his family, friends,and the community dominate the conversation. "I can’t think of anyone who didn’t want to be his friend," said a fellow Special Forces soldier who went through the qualification course with Rick. "He put others in front of him more than most people I know. It didn’t take long to notice and once you did you wanted to be around him."
No matter how hard the training or how difficult the deployment, he always tried to make a tough situation better, making it a point to focus on the positive—habitually telling uplifting, funny stories to make his friends laugh and make a tough situation better.
It is fitting that Rick’s Place seeks to alleviate the stress of military life and give families a place to reset and recharge. While Rick would have been the first person to help build the Rick Herrema Foundation (RHF), he would have shaken his head when he heard it was named after him. For those who still think of Rick every day, there is no more fitting tribute. "I believe that God knows when you’re going to die," his mother, Mary, said. "Rick died doing what he wanted to do. I know he wouldn’t want something named after him. He should be honored. Life can be better for all those families."
RHF and Rick’s Place, a respite park for military families, seek to embody Rick’s life of service, which was not for personal gratification but because in Rick’s mind there was no other way to live. Those who knew Rick are thankful to have spent time with him, and now every visitor to Rick’s Place will experience a taste of what it was like to be Rick’s friend.