Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Army Sgt. Adam J. Ray

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Adam J. Ray, 23, of Louisville, Ky.

Sgt. Ray was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; died Feb. 9, 2010 in southern Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

The Defense Department says Sgt. Adam J. Ray died Tuesday in southern Afghanistan from wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device.

Sgt. Ray was on his first combat deployment and had been in Afghanistan since July, according to an Army press release.

The Army promoted him posthumously to sergeant from his previously held rank of specialist.

He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

Adam Ray enlisted in April, 2005 in Jackson, Miss. After attending basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., he was trained as a patient administration specialist and served a year-long tour of duty at Camp Casey, Korea, the Army said.

In February 2007, after returning to the states, the Army assigned Ray to a medical center at Fort Lewis, Wash., which is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Sgt. Ray joined his Stryker brigade a year later as a rifleman, following infantryman training at Fort Benning.

During his service, Ray received several military honors, including the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal-Army Service Ribbon as well as the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal and the NATO Medal.

At a very early age, Adam Ray let it be known he wanted to help people, and serving in the military became one of his goals in life.

“The way he put it was, he wanted to be a cop, that rode a horse, that worked at Busch Gardens and was in the Army,” Amanda Ray said Friday, laughing sadly at the memory of her younger brother, an Army sergeant who died Tuesday in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Ray, 23, died of injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his patrol, according to information the U.S. Army provided to North Dakota’s Congressional delegation and governor.

Adam Ray grew up in Kentucky, but his parents, James and Donna Ray, and other family members moved to West Fargo from Florida last summer when James Ray became pastor at Valley Christian Church in Moorhead, Amanda Ray said.

She described her brother as “the rock of our family” and said her brother’s sense of duty extended to those beyond his family.

“Since he was a baby, this is what he wanted to do,” Amanda Ray said. “He felt like it was his responsibility to protect not just his country, but women and children and people who are innocent overseas as well.”

Family members have not been told details of what happened in Afghanistan, but Amanda Ray said her brother’s best friend and fellow soldier, who was with her brother when he died, has shared some things.

“He told us Adam was laughing and smiling to the end, telling jokes,” Amanda Ray said.

Sgt. Adam J. Ray called his mother last weekend from Afghanistan to let her know he was doing OK, and that his unit was heading back to their home base after a mission.

That is the last time his family heard from the 23-year-old, who the Defense Department said died Feb. 9 in southern Afghanistan from wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device.

“He just called and said his unit was on its way back, and that he loved us all, and promised he would not be a hero,” said Donna Ray, from the family’s home in North Dakota. “But he was a hero.”

The son of a military family, whose father is now a Christian minister, Adam lived in Louisville with his family for a decade. His father, Jim, grew up in Okolona, and the family has several relatives — including aunts, uncles and cousins and paternal grandparents, John and Doris Ray — who still live in the Louisville area, Donna Ray said. Adam’s maternal grandparents, Bobby and Marilyn Sumner, live in Tampa, Fla, where he was born.

Of Louisville, Donna Ray said, “We consider it home.” Adam attended Overdale Elementary School in Hillview and was home schooled before attending Oak Hill Academy, a Christian school in West Point, Miss.

His mother noted that the family maintains strong ties to Okolona Christian Church, where her son’s funeral will be held. Details of the funeral and burial are still being finalized with arrangements being handled by the Arch L. Heady & Son Funeral Home on Preston Highway. A Feb. 24 memorial service also is scheduled at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., where Adam was based, Donna Ray said.

A young man with a ready smile, Adam liked listening to Bob Dylan and Charlie Daniels, his mother said. He had recently taken up guitar, and was planning to travel with his Army buddies when their tour was over,

Donna Ray said the family has been receiving phone calls and words of support from members of the military family in the wake of her son’s death. “Everybody has reached out for us in unbelievable ways. It has been so comforting. We can’t begin to say enough,” she said.

Donna said her son always wanted to make his family proud. He also had a funny side, and she recalled how he would often kid his family by pretending he was a University of Kentucky Wildcat fan when he knew many of them supported the University of Louisville Cardinals.

“He didn’t believe in hurting anyone. He was always protecting people,” she said. “He went out of his way to do things for people.…He was very thoughtful and very loyal.”

Donna Ray said her son, the third of five siblings, was dedicated to his family, which includes his 7-year-old nephew, Christopher, and his two older sisters, Betsy, 29, and Amanda, 26, and his two younger brothers, Zachary, 19, and Seth, 16. He had a tattoo done on his chest of a four-leaf clover that was meant to represent his mother and father, and four siblings, she said.

“Adam knew this could happen,” Donna Ray, said of her son’s death. “He planned for it last time he was home. He wanted to make sure his brothers and sisters were taken care of.…He loved them, and he loved God. He never stopped loving God and he never stopped loving his family.”

Donna Ray said her son never questioned his decision to enter the military. “He died not regretting doing what he was doing,” Donna Ray said. “He loved the Army. He hated the war because there was so much evil and sadness. But he faced it. He was not in the least bit regretting it.”

Adam Ray would have celebrated his 24th birthday on March 9.

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven and U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., issued separate statements Friday, extending their sympathies to the Ray family.

“This is truly a sad day as again we mourn the loss of a soldier with North Dakota ties,” Conrad said.

“On behalf of all North Dakotans, our hearts and prayers go out to those who are grieving his loss and we honor Sergeant Ray for his distinguished service and steadfast allegiance to defending our nation and preserving freedom around the world,” Gov. Hoeven said.

Amanda Ray said that after his service in the Army, her brother planned to travel Europe with his best friend before going back to school, possibly to become a history teacher and writer.

“He wanted to write a book about his time over there (in Afghanistan),” Amanda Ray said.

“He was my younger brother, but he was more like a big brother to all of us. He looked out for us, he took care of us,” she said, referring to her family, which includes a sister, Betsy, and two brothers, Zachary and Seth.

“It’s very hard and very unreal to us right now to accept this, because in my heart I don’t feel like he’s gone,” Amanda Ray said.

Adam is one of five children. He is survived by his parents Rev. James and Donna Ray of MN, two sisters Amanda and Elizabeth, two brothers Zachary and Seth as well as paternal grandparents John and Doris Ray of KY and Bobby and Marilyn Sumner of Tampa, FL.

Army Sgt. Adam J. Ray was killed in action on 2/9/10.

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