Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Michelle Ring remembered

She loved adventure.

She loved serving in the U.S. Army.

Still, while on leave in May, Spc. Michelle Ring told her family she feared going back to Iraq.

"She just had this feeling that something bad was going to happen to her," a sister, Karen Harbuck, recalled Monday.

On July 5, just three days after her 26th birthday, Ring was hit by a mortar round at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. She died instantly.

"It was near the same place where one had hit a few months ago," said Harbuck of Anchorage, Alaska. "Michelle was supposed to be there that day, but wasn't."

Ring, the single mother of boys ages 7 and 5, was a petroleum supply specialist with the 92nd Military Police Battalion at Fort Benning.

"She was the youngest of three sisters, but was always trying to take care of us," Harbuck said. "She had worked some factory jobs -- one was with Tyson Chicken -- but wanted more for her children. One day she looked up and saw a recruiting poster and said, 'I'm so going into the Army.' She felt she had finally found the place where she fit. Going to Iraq, she told us she had a job to do and was ready."

Ring was deployed to Iraq on Oct. 31, 2006, just five months after arriving at Fort Benning. She enlisted in August 2005.

"She loved doing her job," said Ring's other sister, Marilyn Haybeck, from her parents' home in McMinnville, Ore. "She was going to make a career of the Army. She was an outgoing person, very loving."

"She was a tomboy from the word go," said Ring's mother, Shirley Stearns, who last talked to her daughter on July 4. "She always wanted to be outdoors fishing, hiking, whatever."

As for joining the Army, her mother said it began as a way to get an education.

"At first, she saw it as a chance to get back to school and make life better for her children, but really fell in love with the Army. We were always worried about her, but also so very proud of her."

"She thought about going into the Marines," said her father, John Stearns, himself a Marine, "but I pointed her toward the Army because it had better educational benefits."

He recalled buying her a four-wheeler when she was younger and living in Chugiak, near Anchorage.

"Alaska was always her favorite place, the spot she called home," he said. "She loved to take that car up into the mountains. She was just a free spirit, very adventurous."

Ring's oldest child, Marc, lives with the Stearns. His father, a soldier at Fort Richardson, Alaska, was murdered in a 1999 fight. He was Ring's boyfriend at the time.

Her younger son, Brandon, lives with her ex-husband, Michael Ring, in Martin, Tenn. Karen Harbuck said Brandon has lived with his father since Ring entered the service.

Stearns plans to have his daughter buried at Williamette National Cemetery near Portland, Ore.

"She had become a little disillusioned by what she saw in Iraq," said Harbuck, "but never talked bad about the Army. She was very happy to be a soldier."

From the Ledger-Enquirer

Related Link:
Michelle R. Ring dies 'of wounds sustained from enemy mortar fire'