Iron Rangers

Dear Ryan;

Even though it was much too late to save you, I know that you would be pleased to know that on December 18, 2011 the last convoy rolled out of Iraq and into Kuwait to be dispersed.

2,936 days after you passed away we are no longer involved in a war that should never have been in the first place. You knew that but you didn’t question the decisions made by so many in lofty (and safe) positions in the military and federal government. I mean that's what a good soldier does right? He follows orders and puts his trust in his commanding officers and brother soldiers.

The whole country was falsely led into the whole mess in Iraq on March 16, 2003. You came home from Kuwait and already plans were being formulated for you and your brother Iron Rangers to be deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Even though you were an exemplary soldier, I know in your heart, you did not want to kill and if you did, it was to protect you and your brothers.

I remember believing with all my heart that you would be safe. Looking back on the last time I saw you, I have one of the few regrets of my life and it’s a big one. I wish I had hugged you and told you how proud I was of you and always would be. But I was so convinced that you would breeze this war and come back to us safely that I simply took your hand, shook it and said my good-byes. I can still picture exactly where we were standing when that took place in your mother’s kitchen/dining room area.

Unfortunately, I can much more vividly remember exactly what I was doing and where I was when darling Sarah called to tell me that you’d been injured but said she was assured by the spokesperson for the Army that you were not that seriously wounded. Of course what good would it have done if we had known how badly you really were injured?

It was a Saturday morning and your cousin Nicolas and I were just pulling up to park at my old office in Ontario. Saturdays I nearly always took Nicolas with me since he liked just hanging out with his dad. As I pulled into the front parking space, I got the call on my cell phone from Sarah.

I remember going inside and we had an elderly woman named Goldie who had been cleaning our office for many, many years. She was the kindest, most thoughtful woman. She asked how we were doing when I went inside and I told her I wasn’t sure because I had just received word that you had been injured, although assured that the injuries were not life-threatening. I can still hear her voice saying, “His name is Ryan?” I said it was. She said, “well God bless his little heart. I will pray for him.”

Then, scarcely more than three weeks later, I was home and it was a Tuesday. I got a call from your aunt Judy. Dear aunt Judy whom you loved I believe more than your own mother. She said, “We lost Ryan.” My very first reaction was, “what does that mean? We lost Ryan?” that is how sure I was that you would still be okay.

And I remember it taking a few seconds to sink in. I mean we had been under the impression that you were injured but that they got you back to the states (albeit in a coma) so the idea of you passing away was off the table for sure. Your dear aunt Judy nor I had anything more to say and we hung up the phone almost immediately.

And now Ryan, it’s been ten years since that day God called you to His side. We were so proud of you then and even more so now. At first, pain overshadowed all other emotions, but our pride for you was always there. I hope you were able to see how many friends and family loved you. We all honored you in any way we could. We brought your case to the attention of the local congressman in Corona who put in motion a ceremony that gave up land, and put a nice, big memorial in your honor at Norco High School.

Your Army brothers erected one in your honor in Kansas, and your name and picture were flown on a huge flag that with others lined the streets of Riverside years after you passed away. So much respect and love for you Ryan. I know somehow you have felt and known this since you left us that day. I also know you were fully aware that your beautiful, devoted wife Sarah did not let you down and got you home to California and she did not leave you there in the cold Eastern part of our country. She said you wanted to be back home and that is where she brought you.

Like the loss of any loved one, the years have made it possible for us to resume life and yes the pain is easier to bear than it was in those first, hollow and empty days after you passed away. But today, ten years after you died, more often than not, I tear up when talking about you. They are not tears of pain so much anymore. They are tears of pride. Pride we all feel when your name comes up. And it comes up often. You were then, and today you remain the pride of the Young family and we are so happy to have had you with us as long as we did. And one of the best parts about our belief in God is that we know we’ll all be reunited again. I for one can’t wait. I owe you a big hug that I didn’t give you before you left.

seasamh síos saighdiúir. beidh orainn a chur air ó anseo.
An cogadh os a chionn do bhaile ath tú .Tá tú 'anois

Translation from Gaelic: stand down soldier. we'll take it from here. The war is over for you You're home . now

Love and Respect
Uncle Joe

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This Page Last Updated: 2 December, 2013

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