Because freedom isn’t free

Belgium honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country

Jonathon Sprader
Ozaukee Press Staff

Theresa Sprader-Trinh remembers bringing her son to Belgium Community Park to participate in American Legion events with his grandfather.

The last time she saw Jonathon Sprader was in the gazebo at an annual corn roast.

It was from that same gazebo that Sprader-Trinh spoke for the first time publicly about her son during Belgium’s annual Memorial Day commemoration on Monday.

Sprader, 28, didn’t die in combat but “lost his battle with post-traumatic stress” on Aug. 25, 2014, his mother told the crowd.

He served from 2005 to 2009 as a combat medic with the 101st Airborne Division. He served two tours in Iraq and received two Army commendation medals.

“Sadly, although he left the war, the war did not leave him,” his mother said.

She was presented a flag honoring her son’s memory, courtesy of his uncle Larry Sprader and the American Gold Star Mothers.

Sprader-Trinh said after the ceremony that the service was a great way to honor her son’s sacrifice and bring awareness to post-traumatic stress.

“Not all wounds are visible. That really is his message,” she said.

“He spent his life helping others, and in the end he wasn’t able to help himself.”

Mr. Sprader’s wife Melissa said the ceremony was a way to remember “how great of a person he was. He always wanted to help people.”

The keynote speaker of the ceremony was Jim Johnson, the Ozaukee County sheriff who served for eight years in active duty as a Marine and in the Wisconsin Army National Guard for five years. He has been awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, among other honors.

Johnson, who served as a military policeman in Baghdad from 2003 to 2004, said he remembers two veterans in particular who died five years apart.

One is his father, Lloyd, who was wounded in the Philippines during World War II and received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He died on April 6, 2009.

His father carried physical and emotional reminders of war, Johnson said.

“My father and I had a special bond only shared by those who have been to combat,” he said.

The other veteran is Michelle Witmer, who died on April 9, 2004, in an ambush by insurgents in Iraq. Johnson was her commanding officer. She also received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

“These veterans I remember every day and try to honor their memory,” Johnson said.

“The cost of freedom is borne by the veterans and by their families. We as a grateful nation can never forget their sacrifices.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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