Battling cancer, Clarion man now an honorary soldier
By Rodney L. Sherman
CLARION NEWS Editor
Jedediah Brewer always wanted to join the army and serve his country and on the afternoon of June 7, the 20-year-old Clarion man's wish came true.
Confined to his bed at Clarion Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Clarion, Jedediah was visited by representatives of the Pennsylvania National Guard who made him an honorary member of the army.
"Jedediah had gone to the recruiting station, striving to meet the criteria to join," Pennsylvania National Guard Major Tim Moreau told the gathering before turning to Jedediah and adding, "You are a strong, strong man. We're glad to have you."
Jedediah is a graduate of Clarion Area High School. He was working hard to lose weight to meet enlistment guidelines when he was diagnosed with brain cancer last October.
The cancer has been aggressive and Jedediah is confined to his bed. He was aware of the ceremony being held in his honor and was able to whisper to his mother, Minnie, and through her expressed his thanks to everyone at the gathering.
"That was his dream," Minnie Brewer told the CLARION NEWS. "He always wanted to go. He was working so hard and lost a lot of weight. He loves his friends and he was always laughing. He liked his truck that was his next goal, to get a new truck."
Several of Jedediah's friends were on hand to witness his honorary induction. Jedediah was covered with an army uniform top with his name on it.
"He always wanted to join the army," said Air Force airman Matt LaVan of Clarion. "He always wanted to serve his country. I'm in the air force, so now we're brothers in arms."
Conner Henry of Shippenville spoke of his friend, "It's tough to be here and watch this," said Henry. "Jedediah has fought so damned hard. I'm so proud of you today, Jed."
Blake Woodam of Clarion also spoke warmly of his friend.
"You're a tough cookie," Woodam said to Jedediah. "I'm glad you're my friend. I'm really proud of you, Jed."
Tags and pack
The members of the Pennsylvania National Guard brought a framed certificate in honor of Jedediah's honorary induction and presented it to the young man at the start of the ceremony.
Jedediah also was issued a set of dog tags which were placed around his neck by Moreau and Woodam.
Sergeants Michael LaVan, Ryan Graeves and Matthew Rodriquez gave Jedediah a backpack loaded with army gear and memorabilia.
The last item presented to Jedediah was an official "challenge coin."
That honor came from Sergeant Major Fred Nichols.
A challenge coin is a coin or medallion, bearing a unit's insignia or emblem and carried by the unit's members. Traditionally, they might be given to prove membership when challenged and to enhance morale.
"Those of you who served in the military, know these coins are not given out freely," said Nichols. "They only go to the most deserving."
Master Sgt. Kotas Jackson congratulated Jedediah on the coin.
Minnie Brewer said her son battles on against his cancer but is growing weaker.
"He's fought so hard," said Minnie Brewer.
Jedediah has a brother, Jacob, who is a major in the U.S. Army and is stationed in Colorado.
Here in Clarion, his family includes his father, Steve, bothers Ollie and Ezekiel and sister Heather.
"Jedediah is a good kid, he always has been," said Minnie.
"For all of this to come together today, for him to see his dream come true, is," Minnie said with her voice trailing off.
Moreau closed the brief ceremony.
"Continue to fight, Jedediah," said Moreau. "We'll be there for you. We're all very proud of you."