Thursday, January 05, 2006

Army Specialist Ryan D. Walker

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Ryan D. Walker, 25, of Stayton, Oregon.

Spc Walker was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.; killed Jan. 5 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during convoy operations in Baghdad.

Army Spc. Ryan Doran Walker of Pendleton dedicated his life to serving others as a combat medic and no doubt earned a special place in the heart of many soldiers he helped along the way, the adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard said Monday.
"Ryan chose a special path that made him a caregiver, a lifesaver," Maj. Gen. Raymond Rees said.

When a soldier goes down, he knows the medic will be there, Rees said. And for that reason, medics are heroes from the moment they enlist, he said.

Walker was killed Jan. 5, six days before his 25th birthday. He was in a convoy of eight Army vehicles and two armored buses approaching the scene of a roadside explosion that had hurt other soldiers near Karbala, Iraq. As they arrived, another roadside bomb exploded, killing him instantly.

Almost 1,000 people braved a cold, driving rain to attend a funeral for him at the Pendleton National Guard Armory.

In photographs, Walker was the one who was almost always smiling. He was an Eagle Scout and Pendleton high school wrestler who rode the school bus until he was old enough to have his own pickup truck. He went on to Chemeketa Community College, earning an associate degree in firefighting, then went to work as a paramedic for the Stayton Fire and Ambulance Service.

Mike Walker, a cousin, remembered him as an animal lover, always making pets of dogs, horses and birds, and even keeping a pet chicken he named Sad Sack. Ryan Walker had a quip for every situation and found humor in the most unexpected places.

When trouble reared its head, Ryan was philosophical, his cousin said: Ryan once told his mother, "It's all right, Mom. We're just in a wolf pack for a while."

While serving in Iraq, he was sometimes too busy to write, Mike Walker said. Ryan knew his family worried, and so he tried to reassure them by telling them he was Superman and nothing could happen to him, his cousin said.

His e-mails home were always considerate of the feelings of others, Mike Walker said. One read: "Sorry I haven't written in a while. How's everyone doing? Tell everyone I miss them."

Going off to war is a family tradition. Walker's father was a Vietnam veteran who served in the Navy; his grandfather fought in World War II; his great-grandfather in World War I and earlier warriors in the Walker clan had taken part in the Civil War. There is even a family legend that Walkers could be traced to England's William the Conqueror in 1027, Mike Walker said.

But Ryan Walker's wartime job was to heal, said Gov. Ted Kulongoski, referring to him at one point as a "foxhole surgeon."

What Walker did required quick thinking, specialized training and undaunted courage, the governor said. And he didn't just heal wounds, he healed spirits through his humor, generosity and love, Kulongoski said.

"He was devoted to keeping his fellow soldiers alive," the governor said.

Walker was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars for valor. The Purple Heart was his third; he had received two others before he was killed.

He was buried with full military honors at Skyview Memorial Park between Pendleton and Pilot Rock under lowering skies and bitter winds. A military flyover had to be canceled because of the overcast sky and rain.

Walker is survived by his parents, Randy Walker of Pendleton and Louise Walker of Hermiston, and a brother, Steven of Corvallis.

Army Specialist Ryan D. Walker was killed in action on 01/05/06.

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