Ivica Jerak – the Croat who died as American hero

Master Sergeant Ivica Jerak
Master Sergeant Ivica Jerak

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

For those who are not familiar 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 inscription: “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 on MSG Jerak.

Early life

Ivica Jerak, son of Mirko and Dusko, was born on 12 October 1962. He attended elementary school in 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.

Ivica Jerak took part in many military operations and missions around the world, including international peace support operations in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

He was survived by his wife Hye, an American citizen from South Korea. He lived in Houston.

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

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

Ivica Jerak’s 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.

During his service, he was awarded 47 decorations including four Bronze Star Medals, one with Valor device, 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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