Friday, July 27, 2007

Robert A. Lynch dies 'while conducting combat operations'

Robert Lynch was known for working as hard as he played when he attended Seneca High School.

"Robbie was a little bit of a jokester. He put a smile on your face, but when it came time to get something done, he was the first to jump in and stand shoulder to shoulder with you," said retired Marine Col. Richard Maloney, who taught Lynch in ROTC courses at the school.

On Tuesday, Maloney and other teachers at Seneca got word that 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Robert A. Lynch had died in the Diyala province of Iraq.

"He had so many friends here, the word went around like wildfire," Maloney said of Lynch, who'd lived in Fairdale. "This is a big loss for us."

Retired Sgt. Maj. Gary Wilson, another ROTC instructor, said the 2005 Seneca graduate was killed while on patrol Tuesday.

His family could not be reached for comment.

Lynch was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan, according to the Department of Defense.

Lynch went through all four years of Seneca's Marine Corps ROTC program and then joined the Marines last summer, Maloney said. He was promoted to lance corporal on Feb. 1, according to the Department of Defense.

But Wilson said Lynch's interests went beyond the military, including acting and writing songs and poetry.

"One time he came into the office down here and told us that he wanted everyone to call him Jax from now on," Wilson said. "He just had this great sense of humor. He was articulate and thought outside the box."

At times, it could be hard to picture Lynch as a Marine, said Mike Smith, his pastor at Eastside Praise Ministry Center.

Smith said he baptized Lynch about a year and a half ago.

"He was so charming and kind," Smith said, adding: "There was a side of him that truly believed in what he was doing. He was convinced his life in this capacity was really going to make a difference."

Lynch left for Iraq four months ago, and Smith said he was given an unexpected chance to talk to the Marine over the phone about three weeks ago.

"Robbie's mother came into the office with him on her cell phone and we talked for a few minutes," Smith said. "We talked very little about his duty but he said it was going well. It was mostly pleasant chit-chat, simple things. … I told him to always be conscientious, to make right decisions."

Gov. Ernie Fletcher has ordered that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff until sunset on the day of Lynch's funeral. Mayor Jerry Abramson issued a similar order for all Louisville government buildings and properties through Monday.

Funeral arrangements are pending, Smith said.

In the meantime, those who knew Lynch seemed determined yesterday to celebrate the person they knew him to be.

"He would be smiling and working hard whether it was a good situation or a tough one," Wilson said. "I'm certain that's the way he was over there, as well. He was very much a hero here for us."

From the Courier-Journal