Ivica Jerak: The Croat who died as American hero

Author: Eric Sof

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Ivica Jerak was a member of 1st SFOD-D or publicly known as Delta Force, the unit specialized for urban warfare, killed in the line of duty in northern Iraq in 2005 alongside two other soldiers when a bomb exploded near their position.

Those unfamiliar with his story in his native country may find it strange when they see the inscription at the local school. The table written in both languages, Croatian and English, contains the description: “This playground and works are dedicated to the memory of Master Sergeant Ivica Jerak, son of Debeljak, a citizen of the United States who was killed in the line of duty.”

U.S. Military officials visiting Ivica Jerak's mother in 2012
U.S. Military officials visiting Ivica Jerak’s mother in 2012 (Photo: Sgt. Kyle Wagoner)

The objects mentioned in the inscription are intended for the youngest residents of the village Debeljak where lives 950 inhabitants. They were financed by the Special Operations Command Europe of the U.S. Army, who donated $130,000 to preserve the memory of Master Sgt. Ivica Jerak.

Early life

Ivica Jerak, son of Mirko and Dusko, was born on October 12, 1962. He attended elementary school in the small village Debeljak and Sukošan, while in Zadar, he gained the title of a maritime sailor. After sailing the world’s seas, he landed in the United States in 1985, and only three years later, he became a soldier when he enlisted as a combat medic. After training, he was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was part of the 690th Medical Company. He also served in the 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, and the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group.

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Ivica Jerak took part in many military operations and missions worldwide, including international peace support operations in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo. His wife Hye survived him, an American citizen from South Korea. He lived in Houston. He also was survived by his mother, Milka Jerak.

As a 1st SFOD-D operator, he was killed in northern Iraq on August 25, 2005, near Husaybaha. He was buried at the military cemetery in Arlington.

Ivica Jerak Arlington Cemetery
Ivica Jerak Arlington Cemetery (Photo: XY)

Medals and commendations

Among his fellow soldiers, he was known as Croatian Sensation. During his 17-years long military career Jerak finished various courses, including Pathfinder Course, the Ranger Course, the Basic Airborne Course, the Static Line Jumpmaster Course, the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course, the Special Operations Medical Course, the Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic Course, the Military Freefall Course, the Jumpmaster Course, and the Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Course.

He was awarded 47 decorations during his service, including four Bronze Star Medals, one with a Valor device, and two Purple Heart Medals. Master Sgt. Ivica Jerak was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Valor Device, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Purple Heart.

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