ATKINSON — There's no question Jeremy Graczyk was not an ordinary person.
While those who knew him may say he was a kind, fun-loving guy just like anyone else, the 33-year-old Atkinson man was more than that.
Not only was he the valedictorian of his graduating class at Timberlane Regional High School, but Graczyk went on to graduate from the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy. He was a longtime Marine with an indomitable spirit who was honored countless times for service to his country.
Graczyk, on a monthlong leave from the military, died while "BASE jumping" in Switzerland, according to Maj. Jeffrey Landis, public affairs officer for the U.S. Marine Corps.
All James Lamb knows is he wouldn't be alive if not for the stranger who stopped him from bleeding to death and struggled to pull him from a smashed, overturned minivan on an isolated road in Mexico.
Graczyk and his companion, fellow Marine Kent Kroeker, stayed with Lamb — his hip broken, legs crushed and arm nearly severed — for two hours until paramedics arrived to help.
"I'm devastated I never got a chance to thank him in person," Lamb said last night from his Lincoln, Neb., home. "Thirty-three years old is too early."
Despite a slight limp, Lamb said he has recovered from the Nov. 17 accident. He said he was lucky to finally meet Kroeker and hoping to meet Graczyk as well. Then, he got a call from Kroeker on Tuesday — the day Graczyk was killed.
Graczyk, known for his love for adventure, had been parachuting from the side of a mountain, Landis said. No further details were available on what went wrong.
Lamb, 34, and his wife, Tyley, 35, said they were shocked to hear the news. So were others who knew and loved the Atkinson man.