Friday, June 29, 2007

Ward Linder remembered

HICKORY -- Priscilla Hilgendorf thought it unusual when she got an early-morning phone call June 18.

“I thought it was work calling me in,” she said.

The faraway voice on the line was that of her grandson, Ward Linder. The soldier was about to embark on a dangerous two-week mission, she said.

“He said he just called to tell me he’s OK, and that he loved me,” Hilgendorf said. “He sounded so far away. Normally, he sounded so up and cheerful. This time, he sounded sad.”

Linder’s last mission would take him to Baqubah, east of Iraq. On June 19, he was killed by a roadside bomb.

Linder was 23.

Linder joined the Marine Corps in 2001. He served a stint in Afghanistan and decided not to re-enlist.

As he tested the waters of civilian life in between, he grew close to his Nana. He even lived with her for a while.

“We would stay up at night, playing cards and Scrabble,” Hilgendorf, 66, said. “One Saturday night, sitting on a sofa, he said, ‘Nana, I think we’ve bonded.’

“I said, ‘I think so, too.’”

Linder met his fiancee, Nicole Gray, at a church outing in July. Hilgendorf invited her for lunch the following Sunday.

Soon, Gray was wearing an engagement ring.

In November, Linder enlisted in the Army.

“He said he wanted to go to Iraq,” said Darryl, his father. “Working here was never as exciting. He found civilian life boring.”

Gray was enrolled in cosmetology school and knew of Linder’s plans to join the Army.

“I told him I’d support him 100 percent,” Gray, 20, said.

The pair planned to marry July 19 while he was home on leave.

He also leaves behind a son, 3-year-old Kyle, from a previous marriage.

From the Hickory Daily Record

Related Link:
Ward (Darryl W.) Linder dies 'of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device'