Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ryan Russell remembered by mom

Army Spc. Ryan Russell called his mom last month to say he didn't think he'd get leave this month.

Six months into his first Iraq tour, Russell, a U.S. Army medic with the 1st Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, had qualified for a 10-day leave and was planning to visit his family at their home in Ayden.

"He was looking forward to coming home," said his mother, Kathy Moore of Ayden.

With his clothes in storage at Fort Hood, Texas, Russell had been ordering clothing and shoes online and having them shipped to his mother's home.

Tuesday, Moore learned that was the last telephone call she would receive from her son.

Russell, 20, and five others were killed Monday when a spring-loaded improvised explosive device went off while he was aiding a group of soldiers in Baqubah, Iraq. Baqubah is where Winterville resident and fitness trainer Capt. Chris Cash was killed during a small arms attack in 2004.

Russell is the sixth person with ties to Pitt County who has died in either Afghanistan or during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Moore said she knew her son was dead Tuesday evening when she got home from work and found two military officers waiting for her.

"I knew the minute I saw them on the front porch in their Class A uniforms that something was wrong," she said. "They just don't come to your home."

The day after the family learned of their son's death, Federal Express delivered a box of items Russell had purchased for his leave. Friday, the box sat unopened.

"We don't know how many more of those may come," she said.

A paperwork mix-up delayed the Army's notification of Russell's death, Moore said. Military records showed she stilled lived in Nash County, where she raised Russell and her two older children, Robert, 23, and Jennifer, 25. Robert, who now lives in Germany, served three years in the Army as a light wheel mechanic. Jennifer lives in Nash County.

Russell graduated in 2004 from Southern Senior High School in Bailey. In school, Russell was dubbed a class clown because he always managed to see the light side of things, his mother said.

"It didn't matter if he was at home or out, he pretty much wanted people to laugh," she said.

Growing up, Russell and his older brother were involved in the Royal Rangers, a church group. Active young boys, the Russell brothers gained a reputation because one or the other would usually end up injured when the group went camping.

Given her youngest son's experiences with hospital emergency departments, Moore said she was surprised he wanted to be a medic.

"It's really ironic because as a kid growing up, needles and drugs, he had a hard time with it," she said. "When he said he was going to be a medic, I said, 'What?' He said yes and I thought, 'This is a switch.'"

She believed he was inspired, in part, by his stepfather, Thomas, who spent 12 years as an Army X-ray technician. His grandfather retired from the Army after 21 years.

"Ryan wanted to do his part, but he also wanted to learn something he could use on the outside," she said.

Just like Thomas, Russell wanted to be an X-ray technician when he entered the Army, but no slots were open, Moore said. When he asked what was available in the medical field, he was told medics were needed. He signed up, knowing the choice would likely take him into combat, his mother said.

When the Moores traveled to Texas for Russell's graduation, they were happy to see he was well-liked and had impressed people with his ability to quickly learn the medical knowledge he needed.

In January, Moore said her son re-enlisted for five years. It had been decided that once he completed his tour he was going to be re-assigned to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Moore said she finds comfort in knowing her son died helping his comrades.

"All I did as a mom is stand behind them. I miss Ryan dearly and always will, but I don't regret anything. He was serving his country," she said.

Russell's body is expected to arrive in North Carolina Tuesday. Moore said the family will finalize funeral arrangements at that time. They are telling the many friends and strangers who are extending their sympathies to remember Russell by donating to Give2theTroops, a nonprofit organization that sends food, clothing and supplies to military men and women.

Moore became involved in the organization after Ryan went into service. It excited his unit when they received a package from the group.

"It was kind of like Christmas to those guys. Whenever (the organization) sent anything, they made sure there was enough for everyone in the unit," she said.

Her son Robert is expected to fly in from Germany today with his family. Moore is ready to see her oldest son. She said it will be the first time in a long time her family will be together.

From the Reflector

Related Link:
Ryan Russell remembered

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