Jeremy Dean Russell was born on June 12, 1969, in Pueblo, Colorado, and is the youngest of five children. Almost from the time he started walking, he had an uncanny ability to build things out of household items such as toy trucks from cardboard, toilet paper rolls, and saran wrap. His creative talents were largely encouraged and as he grew they expanded into drawing, painting, and music. He had a normal childhood until he lost his mother to cancer on March 24th, 1984, never an easy thing, especially for a 13-year old who now found himself lost.
Jeremy was involved in a horrific car accident on July 14, 1996, causing massive injuries including a skull fracture, closed head injury, massive internal injuries, a shattered pelvis, a broken back, numerous other bone fractures, and a deep laceration in his right leg from a large shard of steel that had sliced through it.
When Jeremy was found at the scene, he had already bled to death with no vital signs present. The ambulance crew, doing just what they were trained to do, attempted to revive him on the way to the nearest hospital and succeeded in getting very weak signs of life.
By the Grace of God, the surgeons were able to 'scrape' Jeremy off of the gurney and put him back together. Many long, painful months of healing followed. When it was time to remove the pins from his right leg, Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus was found to have infected his femur, which created a condition called Osteomyelitis, a very tough-to-treat infection that embeds itself in the bone.
After undergoing more than twenty different debridements and taking an antibiotic that was causing him to go deaf, Jeremy was facing the choice between his hearing and a remote chance to keep his leg. By this time, however, the infection had become life threatening, making it obvious that his only real choice was to amputate his leg above the knee or die.
It has been touch and go at times, but now Jeremy has his health back on the right course after many years of wondering if he would live to see the next year, next month, and at times even next week. The road isn’t over, but at least it’s a lot smoother now.
In addition to the many debilitating physical conditions resulting from the accident, Jeremy also suffered loss of memory from the age of 13 to the time of the accident. Jeremy has no memory between 1984 and the accident in 1996 and has been told that he dealt with overwhelming depression, even attempting to take his own life many times. Friends say that he lived in the fast lane with little to no respect for life. Jeremy believes that the accident represented a good swift kick in the butt and that somehow it changed him into a better person.
Although his high school and college education were lost due to the accident, Jeremy found a way to adapt. He found that his talents were still mostly intact and was anxious to put them to use. He taught himself how to play guitar again and joined a band, but something was still missing, an outlet for visual art. One day, Jeremy had a visit from an old school friend whom he could not remember. This friend showed him a photo album with their pictures and helped Jeremy to fill in the missing pages of his memory.
His newly-found, old friend needed some help to make stone samples for a marketing project he was working on for a local stone quarry and remembered that Jeremy had many natural talents in this area. He simply gave Jeremy a chunk of rock and left him alone with it. Jeremy carved the rock into a small bear and from this humble beginning received a commission to carve a larger piece, his first attempt at sculpting a major work. Two months later, he had created a beautiful work of art, ‘An Eagle's Dream’.
The owner of the quarry recognized Jeremy’s talent with stone and invited him to visit the quarry. He offered Jeremy a solid wall of alabaster to carve that, when finished, would forever be part of the quarry. As he contemplated the stone in the underground chamber, Jeremy has said that he saw an eagle inside that needed to be freed. ‘Freedom’s Eagle’ was hatched on the spot.
When finished, Freedom’s Eagle will be a magnificent, fifty-foot sculpture, soaring in the hearts of all who see it.
Freedom’s Eagle will honor every man and woman who has ever served in the armed forces, those who have protected our way of life and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for American freedom.
This is what gives Jeremy the passion and will to press on through his unending health issues and the enormous challenges that come with a project of this magnitude. All in all, Jeremy has found a way to carve out a new life and do something grand for the love of his country.
I am fortunate to call Jeremy my friend and to be a photographer on the project. As news breaks, I will keep you updated.