Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ryen (Jerry R.) King dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his location'

For the second time in less than six months, a soldier from the 2005 class of Franklin County High School has been killed in the War on Terror.

U.S. Army Pfc. Ryen King, 19, was killed Monday in Iraq when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the midst of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division. Nine died and about 20 were wounded.

Mr. King was a two-sport athlete and member of the school's Young Democrats.

“I sensed that he felt, probably, that the structure of the military would be good for him as he prepared for college,” Franklin County High School Principal Diane Toney said.

Jerry King of Bowersville, fighting emotion in a desire to honor his son and thank the community for an outpouring of support, said there were several reasons for his son to join the Army after graduation.

“I'll tell you what he told me,” Jerry King said. “I wanted to make sure he joined for the right reasons. He said to me, ‘I need to serve and establish myself on my own.’”

An e-mail sent April 5 from Iraq and shared Wednesday by Jerry King includes reflections by his son between patrols.

“Sometimes, I wonder where I would be if I would have went straight to college like nearly everyone else,” Ryen King wrote. “Honestly, I think that the Army was the best decision for me even though it sucks not being home to protect or give advice to my little sisters like an older brother should — not being able to kiss or even tell the girl, who his done nothing but support and encourage me to be all that I can be, goodnight, and that I love her, or even missing the small things like breakfast with my grandmother are hard.

“I can't wait until all that I have to worry about is making a 10:10 class ...”

The writer, who was on patrol Monday with other members of his unit, died from injuries suffered after the explosion caused a building to collapse on him, Jerry King said.

Ryen King, who had been in Iraq since August, had five sisters, ages 2 to 20, and was a role model for them, his father said.

“He had a lot of sense of responsibility protecting his sisters,” his father said. “He really cared a lot about them.”

In January, Ryen King was home for a two-week leave.

“Honestly, during that time he spent most of his time with his girlfriend snow skiing,” Jerry King said.

His girlfriend, University of Georgia student Hanna Davidson of Royston, notified about Ryen King’s death while studying in Italy, was expected to return on Wednesday, Jerry King said.

“(Ryen) enjoyed baseball, enjoyed hanging out with his friends, fishing, playing paintball, trout fishing in Cherokee (N.C.),” his father said.

All those hobbies had been on hold until the end of Ryen King's tour, which had a few months left before Monday’s attack.

Funeral arrangements are currently incomplete, his father said. But plans have been made to fly Pfc. King into Toccoa and then take him by hearse to Strickland Funeral Home in Lavonia, Jerry King said.

It was Monday when Army representatives delivered the tragic news. They arrived about 5:30 p.m., shortly after Jerry King had left his teaching job at Franklin County High School.

The news was devastating.

Jerry King, in Bowersville, and Carmen Jordon, in Royston, were told that their son was dead.

“He was a cavalry soldier,” Jerry King said. “When he joined that’s what he wanted to do. He had just received the ‘excellence in cavalry award.’ He called me on Friday. He was really proud to have gotten it.”

Achievement has followed Ryen King for years.

Franklin teacher John Beasley said Ryen King was in one of his high school classes during each of his four years at the Carnesville school.

“He was a beautiful young man, intelligent and loved life,” Mr. Beasley said.

Baseball coach Derrick Davis said Ryen King played football and was a catcher on the baseball team during his freshman and junior years.

“He was always, ‘yes sir, no sir,’” Mr. Davis said. “I am proud that for two years I got to be his coach.”

Principal Toney said an e-mail that Jerry King sent to her late Monday announced the school's second military loss during the current academic year.

From the Independent Mail