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“I was just doing my job,” Jeff Bloomquist told a gathering of his friends at the Jamestown Gazette office on Tuesday afternoon last week. But for Jeff that meant giving a wounded soldier the shirt off his back, the only bandage he could find in an emergency… because that’s just how Jeff Bloomquist is. For him, “the least I can do” has always meant going beyond the call of duty.
A “One of Our Own” story by Jamestown Gazette contributor, Emily Wynne, published on July 18, 2016, told the story. Last week an old friend helped bring that story full-circle for Jeff.
The battlefield was a rice paddy in Heip Duic, Vietnam, just a year after Rocky Bleier’s rather unremarkable 1968 rookie year in the backfield with the Pittsburg Steelers before being drafted into the U.S. Army. The day Jeff dragged Rocky out of a hail of withering enemy fire was a day the Pittsburg Steelers Star has never forgotten.
Bleier was on patrol with the U.S. 196th Light Infantry on a hot Wednesday afternoon on August 20, 1969 when an enemy bullet tore into his right thigh and grenade shrapnel obliterated his right heel. That’s when Medic PFC-3 Bloomquist went into action. “His heel looked terrible,” Bloomquist said. “I didn’t think he could ever walk again.”
A Reader’s Call
Lakewood resident Jim Murphy, vice president and managing director at United Refining in Warren, PA read the Gazette story about Jeff. He found the story inspiring and, on a hunch, shared it with his long-time friend, Bill Coleman at Donnelley Financial Solutions in Pittsburg. Jim was pretty sure his friend Bill knew Rocky Bleier personally, and especially admired the way he fought his way back from battlefield injuries to rejoin the Steelers and help them win a bunch of Super Bowl rings (vs. Cowboys, Vikings and Rams) from 1971 to 1980.
“After I heard the story,” Bill said, “I called Rocky and asked if he would like to send a message to Jeff.” Rocky was delighted to help “close the loop” with an expression of his personal gratitude. He autographed a special edition Pittsburg Steelers football and sent it to Jamestown for a surprise award ceremony at the Jamestown Gazette. It was delivered in person by Bill, Jim and Tammy Jensen, executive secretary at United.
A Community’s Thanks
“Jeff has done so much for so many people, we thought this little surprise party was something we could do for him,” said Jamestown Gazette owner and publisher, Stacey Hannon. Jeff can personally account for more than $100,000 raised in events he has organized for cancer care and research over the years and many thousands of dollars raised for scholarships for local students. The football presenters were joined by June Diethrick of Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and Andrea Magneson of the Gebbie Foundation, two key community organizations working with Jeff in his philanthropic endeavors.
“This was as good as when General Westmoreland came to see me in Vietnam,” Jeff said. “I was with Unit 6, 4/12 CAV assigned to 32 different locations in-country at different times and he found me twice to award me the Medal of Merit with Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters. Like then, I’m very, very surprised, and I am humbled again by people’s appreciation for the things I try to do. It’s only what I think everybody should do.
If any Jamestown Gazette reader happens to see Jeff Bloomquist, also well known around town as his AKA President Abe Lincoln, congratulate him again. And from the Jamestown Gazette, “Thank you for your service!”