Nevada woman who loses son in Iraq, then home gets new keepsake

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RENO, Nev. (AP) - A woman who lost her son in Iraq last year and then her home in a fire received a replacement keepsake from U.S. Sen. John Ensign during an emotional ceremony Sunday in Reno.

Kathy Hamilton, mother of late Lance Cpl. Jeremy Long, was given
another Purple Heart to replace one that was damaged in the Jan. 3
fire that caused no injuries at her Sun Valley mobile home just north of Reno.

The 18-year-old Long was awarded the medal after he was killed Aug. 10 when an improvised explosive device struck his patrol in Anbar province.

"I can't express my condolences enough for the pain you went through with the loss of Jeremy and then with the fire on top of it," Ensign, R-Nev., told about 50 people at a downtown park. "I hope this in some small way shows our appreciation for the price paid by Jeremy."

Before embracing Hamilton and other family members, Ensign also
presented her with an American flag that flew over the Capitol in honor of her son and a Purple Heart certificate signed by President Bush.

The fire destroyed most of the family's personal possessions, including much of Long's memorabilia, Hamilton said. Among items destroyed were his baby pictures, clothing, a high school yearbook, a Marine flag and a photo of his memorial service in Iraq.

The morning fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring in a bedroom, fire investigators said.

"To deal with the loss of Jeremy and then the fire, it's just been tough," Hamilton said. "But I wasn't expecting this today and I'm very grateful for the support from family, friends and the community. Without it, I'd be toast."

The community has rallied behind Hamilton and her three children, donating money, furniture and even a mobile home. The family plans to continue staying with Hamilton's mother until a lot for the home can be found.

"You don't think any good can come out of losing such a beautiful boy," said Patsy Cave of Carson City, Long's aunt. "But I know he's looking down today and feels honored because the community is showing they care."

Hamilton said she feels lucky that the fire didn't destroy a message on a phone answering machine that her son left the day before he died. In it, she said, he jokingly instructs one sibling to take out the garbage and he tells the family that he misses them.

She said the closeness of her family and her work at a Reno fitness club's child care center are helping her cope with the losses.

"My bad luck is over. It can only go up from here," Hamilton said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)