As Walk Like MADD Greenville Upstate Presented by HotSpot approaches on October 7th, we are pleased to introduce you to our Honor Family.  Rhonda Cockrell is the mother of Jeremy Cockrell.  On November 15, 2014, Rhonda Cockrell lost her son, Jeremy age 27; when a drunk driver crossed the center line and collided head-on with his truck. The driver had a blood alcohol content of .19 and was sentenced to 13 years for killing Jeremy.  Becoming her son’s voice, Rhonda shared her pain with a judge while a courtroom looked on. This is her victim’s impact statement read in court prior to the offenders sentencing.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that I would be in the place I am today. A place where no parent should ever be. A place where I had to put the one person more important to me than any other in the world, in the ground and walk away. What compounds my grief and heartache is the senselessness of this whole situation. You can’t imagine all the “what ifs” and “if onlys” that have gone through my mind during the last twenty months of my life. “If only” Adam Rowell had not chosen to drink and drive. “If only Jeremy had not chosen that route. If he had been five minutes earlier or five minutes later, I could still have my son. I do this sometimes until the point I want to scream out, but at my house, there is no longer anyone to scream to.

Jeremy was my only child. I don’t have another child to help me get through all the lonely hours I now face. At the time of Jeremy’s death, it had been almost two years to the day that I lost his dad. His dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was gone within a month. Jeremy and I were dealing with the loss of my husband, his father. I don’t think I could have made it without Jeremy when all of this happened. A loss that I thought was the worst thing that could happen to me. Little did I know what was to come.

Now the only thing I can do for Jeremy is to make sure that his life is not dismissed as unimportant or as less important that Adam Rowell’s. He was my everything. He wasn’t perfect but he was a soul that loved life and he was always there for me. If I didn’t see him every day, we talked on the phone. I can’t do that anymore, hear his voice or touch his face. Adam’s decision to drink and drive, having a .19 blood alcohol level, set into motion circumstances that we will have to live with. Jeremy doesn’t have that choice, at least Adam gets to live. Adam has celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays and other holidays with his family since November 15th 2014. I have spent mine alone because getting together with extended family is too painful. This was not Adam’s first DUI and if he isn’t held accountable for his actions, it may not be his last. So many young people today, think that no matter what they do, someone will get them out of it.

Jeremy was loved by his family, just as Adam by his. Jeremy was an awesome son, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend to many people. He had a great sense of humor and a heart of gold. He would do anything he could for anyone. Jeremy loved his music, especially country and gospel. His dad taught him to play guitar and he loved to sing and he was good at it. He practiced each chord that his dad taught him until he had it perfect. He sang in church and loved doing karaoke at different places.  I wasn’t there for Jeremy in his last moments but I’m here for him today. I plead for justice in his case. I beg of you to not let his death be a total waste. He was somebody, he was loved and he was needed. He was mine and all that I had left of his father. I know that sending Adam to prison doesn’t bring back Jeremy but not sending him to prison for a significant amount of time says Jeremy’s life didn’t count as much as Adam’s. To me, my son’s is just as important. To our family and what’s left, it does. To his friend’s it does. Please send the message to all of those choosing to drink and drive that there are consequences for their actions. How many lives could be saved if everyone knew that there would be a mandatory number of years that would be served for taking a life of another, driving under the influence?

Please join Rhonda, our other victim/survivor teams, our first responders, and all those who want safer roads and a future of No More Victims as we walk together on October 7th at ICAR in Greenville.  Please register today at www.walklikemadd.org/greenville and help us smash our goal of $28,000!  We need a strong MADD for the current fight and the fight ahead because our state’s DUI fatality numbers are inexcusable!