Friday, July 20, 2007

Richard Gilmore reported killed in Iraq

A Carbon Hill man has become Walker County’s first casualty in Iraq. U.S. Army Spec. Richard Gilmore III died Wednesday, along with three other soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter, when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol unit in eastern Baghdad. He was 22. Gilmore, a 2003 graduate of Walker High School, was a member of the U.S. Army’s 126th Infantry Division, Alpha Company, based in Germany.

Gilmore is survived by his wife, Jimmie Sue Gilmore; son Malakiah and daughter Alexis; his parents, Richard and Patty Gilmore of Jasper; and a host of relatives and friends.

Gilmore’s father said they were notified of their son’s death by two officials from the U.S. Army, who knocked on their door around 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

“The minute I opened the door and saw those two soldiers, I knew. I was just crushed,” Gilmore said in an interview with the Eagle Thursday afternoon. “He was my best friend. We were very close. I’m going to cry many nights over this.”

Gilmore said his relationship with his son was not like the average father-son relationship. They were more like brothers, or perhaps best friends, he said.

“I really can’t explain the relationship we had. We did a lot of things together and could talk to each other about anything.”

Funeral arrangements won’t be made until Gilmore’s body is returned to the United States. Family members said Army officials told them it could take between seven and 10 days.

“I know when I see his coffin, it’s going TO floor me,” Gilmore said. “There’s no use denying it, it’s going to be really bad. This is a sad situation, especially for my grandchildren. I’ve faced a lot of things in my life, but I don’t think it can get any harder – or worse – than this.”

Gilmore said his faith told him his son would return home safely one day. “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be,” he said.

“He was supposed to have left Iraq in June and returned to Germany, but his stay had been extended,” Gilmore added. “He was doing a great thing and he was a really brave man. A true war hero.”

Gilmore said his son had been wounded a couple of times during his tour in Iraq, but he always volunteered to go back to the front lines.

Gilmore said his son told him recently the saddest thing he’d heard was when a soldier gets killed, Army officials call the name out three times during roll call and then ring a bell.

“He said ‘Dad, we try not to cry, but you can’t help but break down.’ It’s the saddest thing you’ll ever hear. I got so sad when he told me that,” Gilmore said. “I got to thinking about that. I’m sure Thursday morning, when they called Richard’s name during roll call, they called it three times and then rang a bell for him.”

Gilmore’s father, a former member of the U.S. Army, works in the streets department for the city of Jasper. City officials on Thursday expressed their sympathy for the Gilmore family.

“We, like everybody else, hate when any U.S. soldier is lost in war,” Jasper Mayor Sonny Posey said, “but this hits too close to home. We feel so much sadness for the Gilmore family.”

Posey said the city will do everything in its power to help the Gilmore family deal with the loss of their son.

“We will do anything we can to accomodate the family,” he said.

Dan Wright, who works alongside the elder Gilmore, said Richard looked up to his father and proudly followed in his father’s footsteps.

“He told me he wanted to be just like his father, and that’s why he joined the military,” Wright said.

Walker High School Principal Danny Gambrell said he vividly remembers Gilmore as a good, friendly student.

“He was a really likeable kid,” Gambrell said. “He always had a smile on his face. He was a kid a lot of people liked to be around.”

Gambrell said Gilmore was involved with the Junior ROTC program at Walker.

“The fact that he was wounded before and had a chance to stay here but chose to go back to Iraq shows what kind of kid he was,” Gambrell said. “That’s what he needs to be remembered for.

“This is just a really tragic situation,” he added.

From the Daily Mountain Eagle