Katzenberger enlisted in the U.S. Army in October 2004. He completed training at Fort Benning, GA as an infantryman, and later was assigned to their Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. Upon graduation of the program, Katzenberger was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He served as a rifleman, automatic rifleman, team leader and Ranger squad leader. He was deployed eight times in support of the War on Terror; four times to Iraq and four to Afghanistan. On June 14, 2011, Katzenberger was conducting combat operations with his unit in Sharana, Paktika Province, Afghanistan, when he was attacked and killed by enemy forces. He was 26 years old.
Katzenberger’s awards and decorations include: Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, the Ranger Tab, Expert Infantryman Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, the Parachutist Badge, Air Medal, Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Good Conduct Medal with one loop, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, Iraq Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Overseas Service Ribbon with numeral 2.
Katzenberger met his wife, Colleen, during sophomore year of high school while lifeguarding in their hometown of Weatherby Lake, MO. Their son, Everett, was only four months old when Katzenberger was deployed for the final time.
Discussing why Katzenberger chose to join the Army, Colleen explained, “We actually didn’t start dating until our first year of college. Jeremy decided after that [year] the school route wasn’t for him yet. So, he made the very selfless decision to enlist in the military with a Ranger contract. We stayed together in that. I often like to talk about how I got to watch this 16-year-old boy that life-guarded become this amazing warrior and selfless man that served our country.”
She also touched on the impact of becoming a Gold Star wife and how life has been for her now nine-year-old son.
“I always tell people that I think grief is big and it’s powerful and you don’t ever get rid of it. Watching and raising a son by myself that always so desperately wants to know who his dad was, it means a lot to have people like [NFM] that are always willing to tell my story and Jeremy’s story and honor that, because it means a lot to that nine-year-old boy who looks just like his dad. He’s doing really well. I think there is a certain amount of beauty in watching a young child really grasp the idea that his dad died fighting for our country and I can’t help but think Jeremy is really, really proud of Everett.”
The Gary Sinise Foundation will receive this month’s donation on behalf of Katzenberger and his family.