Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ryan Jones laid to rest

GARDNER— For the broad, omnipresent smile that could light up a room and the commitment to service above self that made him an example for others to follow, 1st Lt. Ryan-Patrick Jones was remembered yesterday during an emotional service at Holy Spirit Church.

Lt. Jones, 23, of Westminster, was killed May 2 by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq. He was deployed there in February.

More than 300 mourners packed the church service yesterday, with Gov. Deval L. Patrick, local legislators and large contingents from Lt. Jones’ alma maters — Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School — among them. Also attending were representatives from veterans organizations and the Blue Star Mothers.

His adoptive parents, Elaine and Kevin Jones, delivered eulogies that elicited tears, laughter and applause.

Mrs. Jones, wearing around her neck a Mother’s Day card mailed the day before her son’s death and signed by 22 men from his platoon, asked the crowd to pause “for 10 seconds of smiles.” At her son’s request, Mrs. Jones had sent care packages to all the members of his platoon.

In a letter published in the funeral program, Mrs. Jones recounted her son’s mission, going out the night of May 2 to clear the roads of improvised explosive devices so no innocent lives would be lost. Lt. Jones was killed on the mission, along with his driver.

“Ryan always took a friend with him and this time it was no different,” Mrs. Jones wrote. “It takes more than an IED to destroy the heart and spirit of a true leader.

“All the insurgents did that day in Baghdad was spread Jesus’ spirit all over the world — ‘Ryan Dust,’ ” her letter continued. “They could kill my son, destroy his body, or take his breath away, but it takes more than that to break his spirit. He went out with that same large smile on his face, knowing that he won. Now, in death as in life, he is able to accomplish even more, ‘Ryan Spirit-Dust scattered all over the world.’ ”

Her son set an example that one person can make a difference, teaching love, speaking the truth and believing in what is good, showing honor by standing on the front line, she wrote.

Addressing the mourners inside the church, Mrs. Jones encouraged them to remember all who have served.

“I want you to go out and celebrate his life by attending a Memorial Day service, not just for him, but for everyone who has died so that you may lead the life you live today,” she said.

She added she had known the love of four men in her life who had given her inner strength, who loved and forgave her, and upon whom she could always count: her father, Jesus Christ, her husband and her son.

“As for my Ryan, he would say, ‘Carry on, go make a difference,’ ” she said, her remarks drawing applause.

Mr. Jones recalled his last telephone call with his son, when he said he was about to put his engineering degree to use in Baghdad.

“My heart soared that he might be in a more secure location,” Mr. Jones said. But his son said he did not want to leave his platoon behind.

He encouraged those in attendance yesterday not to dwell on what might have been, but to relish Lt. Jones’ past and future legacy.

“There is a terrible sadness today, but there should be no despair for people Ryan touched,” Mr. Jones said.

In his homily, Deacon Stanley H. Baczewski said he was grateful to have been part of the church in which Lt. Jones grew up.

“For those that knew Ryan, he had the gift of love,” Mr. Baczewski said. “The short time he was here, he brought God’s love to everyone he met. His smile alone filled your heart.”

That smile will shine down from the stars, he said.

The funeral was followed by a moving service at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Westminster. Brig. Gen. Mark Brown presented Mr. and Mrs. Jones with honors earned by their son: the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Global War on Terror Medal and the Iraqi Campaign Medal, along with the Combat Action Badge.

The latter badge, the brigadier general explained later, is given only to those soldiers “at the tip of the spear.”

Brig. Gen. Brown, representing acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., also presented Mrs. Jones with the American flag that had been draped over her son’s casket, after a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.

Among the mourners at graveside were Lt. Jones’ parents; his longtime girlfriend, Katie Christopher; and his best friend, Brian Wuoti.

From the Worcester Telegram

Related Link:
Ryan Jones remembered

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