Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ryan Hill laid to rest

PORTLAND -- About two-dozen flag-bearing Patriot Guard Riders lined the driveway of Willamette National Cemetery on Friday as a procession of family cars and limousines accompanied the body of Army Pfc. Ryan J. Hill of Keizer to its final resting place.

The day's processional included speeches, prayers and music at the state Capitol and a memorial service at Peoples Church on Lancaster Drive NE. By the order of the governor, flags flew at half-staff in front of public institutions and buildings.

Hill died Jan. 20 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee.

At Willamette National Cemetery overlooking Mount Hood, about 100 people gathered at an amphitheater to watch the formal ceremony. Some carried bouquets or single stems of red carnations.

Army Maj. Margarita Dunlap read the military honors. Hill was awarded a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a combat infantry badge.

Members of the Oregon National Guard funeral team fired a 21-gun salute, followed by two trumpeters playing taps, the traditional bugle call for military funerals. The honor team folded the flag atop the casket. Retired Marine 1st Sgt. Clarence Hudgens presented the folded American flag to Shawna Hill, Ryan's mother.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski also presented an Oregon flag to Shawna Hill, as well as awards from veterans associations.

A military chaplain read the Lord's Prayer, and then the casket was taken to the burial plot.

Capitol steps

Earlier Friday, more than 100 people gathered in the cold on the slate-gray Capitol steps to honor Hill. Some held banners. "Let Freedom Ring" and "God Bless America," they read.

A gold-and-black hearse brought Hill's body to the Salem ceremony from a funeral home in Albany. About 60 motorcycles escorted the hearse, the American-flag-draped coffin visible in the back. Law enforcement escorts from Salem, Keizer, Marion County and Oregon State police helped clear traffic.

Family members, including Shawna Hill, stepped out of the procession vehicles to gather on the steps with Kulongoski and other state officials. Bagpipers played "Amazing Grace." Ryan's former youth minister, Steve Slater, gave a short prayer.

From the roof of the Capitol, far above the mourners, close family friend Eian Zellner played taps.

"I think it's great that they show respect for people in uniform," said Woody Fogleman of Turner, a 20-year veteran of the Army. "I'm always sad when a fellow soldier is killed."

McNary High

From there, the procession headed north, into Keizer, and passed through the McNary High School campus in a low-key fashion. Keizer police were on hand with several cruisers, marking the west side of the parking lot in preparation for the motorcade.

"Ryan spent his ninth, 10th and 11th grades here," McNary Principal Ken Parshall said. "That was a significant part of his life ... This is a very tough thing for a family to go through, losing a kid at any age."

The convoy moved slowly through campus, leading with two state police cruisers and about a dozen motorcycles. Two funeral vehicles, a Humvee and four vehicles with family members followed. A line of 100 motorcycles brought up the rear.

Family friend Rod Cooper, 51, of Veneta and Drew Fish, a sophomore from Thurston High School in Springfield, stood from the upper press stairs of McNary's football field to film the procession.

"We are friends of Shawna's through business," Cooper said. "We've known Ryan through that relationship and wanted to be here to record this for the family."

Church service

As funeralgoers entered the front lobby of Peoples Church, they stopped to take in a collage of photos of Hill and and his childhood drawings. A teddy bear was on a side table. Bagpipers followed the honor guard, which marched in carrying the casket of the fallen soldier.

Kulongoski borrowed a line from Sophocles for the day's funeral address.

"Sons are the anchor of a mother's life," Kulongoski said. "Today, we remember a patriot hero and an anchor for his mother's life, his state and his nation."

The governor has attended memorial services for almost every soldier with ties to Oregon who has died in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Matt Deluca read from a letter that he wrote after he learned of Ryan's death. Deluca and Ryan Hill had been best friends since fourth grade.

"We grew to be brothers. Every day was an adventure with us," he said.

A slide show also showed images of Hill, from infanthood to his high school prom to his time in Iraq, where he is clad in fatigues. Hill's mother narrated the slide show with a letter she wrote to her son in August.

In an antechamber, a video camera was set up so that mourners could tape messages that will be sent to Hill's Army unit in Baghdad.

Eight pallbearers carried out the casket to the waiting hearse, ready to take it to the final ceremony.

At the national cemetery, Salem resident Cristina Casas said she attended all of the services because she wanted to show support for Shawna.

Casas said she also was compelled to attend because her own son, Dahir Jacobo, is deployed in Afghanistan with the Oregon National Guard. Casas said she can relate to how the family feels.

"We have the same feelings and dangers. I understand," Casas said, adding that, when she heard about Ryan Hill's death, "it was like something happened to me."

From the Journal

Related Link:
Ryan Hill remembered

Related Link:
Ryan J. Hill dies of injuries from I.E.D.