Saturday, September 18, 2010

Army Sgt. 1st Class Ronald A. Grider

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class Ronald A. Grider, 30, Brighton, Ill.

SFC Grider was assigned to U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Sept. 18, 2010 at Kunduz province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when he was struck by machine gun fire.

Sgt. 1st Class Ronald A. "Aaron" Grider died Saturday on his 30th birthday after being hit by machine gun fire during combat in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan, officials with the U.S. Department of Defense said.

Aaron Grider, an Alton native and a 1998 graduate of Civic Memorial High School in Bethalto, was assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

"He was just loved by everybody," said his stepmother, Virginia Grider. "We miss him."

Grider's aunt, Debbie Thompson of Bunker Hill, who is his father's sister, said the family received the sad news Saturday. She said her nephew, who was called "Aaron" by his family, was a "wonderful" man.

"He was just the nicest person," Thompson said. "He has done so much in 30 years that it's amazing."

Thompson said Grider ran track and cross country and also wrestled during his high school years. "He was so physically fit," she said. "He liked to be physically fit; he was an exercise nut."

Thompson also recalled Grider's sense of humor, noting that he was the baby of the family. Grider has an older sister, Sherry, she said.

His aunt said Grider had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan a total of 11 or 12 times.

"He would talk about service" when he was home on leave, she said. "He was dedicated to it. He thought it was a worthy cause."

Thompson said she never heard her nephew express any fear for his own safety. "He wanted us to think that there was no problem," she said. "He was so specialized that he thought he was invincible."

Grider is survived by his 4-year-old daughter, Katie-Anne Grider of Raleigh, N.C., from his first marriage. He married his second wife, Brittany Grider of Carthage, N.C., in March of this year, and she also survives.

"They were married in Colorado, actually," Thompson said. "We had a little reception for them after the wedding in Bunker Hill."

Thompson said his father, Ron Grider of Brighton, was in Dover, Del., on Monday night, waiting for Aaron Grider's body to be returned to Dover Air Force Base. She said Aaron would be brought home, but she was unsure about funeral arrangements.

"We'll probably all go to Fort Bragg," Thompson said. "I think there will be a big military service there."

During high school, Grider worked at a grocery store after hours. After graduation, he joined the Army before the age of 18 so his father signed for him to go, Thompson said.

"He joined the infantry. He went from there to airborne, to rangers, then to special ops," Thompson said.

Grider served with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, N.C., as a grenadier, rifleman and scout team leader. He served with the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga., as a rifle team leader and squad leader and was sent to Afghanistan once and to Iraq three times. After Grider joined the special operations team in 2005, he went to Iraq four more times and to Afghanistan once.

His uncle, Thompson, is a Vietnam veteran and recalls talks with his nephew about the military.

"He would talk about that he was so secure in his training and felt so good about this team of guys he worked with, they were very successful in what they did," Thompson said. "He didn't get into the politics of the war. He said this was his job and there were bad people in the world and his job was to rid the world of people like that."

Airborne-qualified, he served with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg as a grenadier, rifleman and scout team leader. Also during this time, Grider attended and graduated from Ranger school.

Once he was Ranger-qualified, Grider served with the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga., as a rifle team leader and squad leader, where he deployed once to Afghanistan and three times to Iraq.

In November 2005, Grider was assigned as a special operations team member, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, where he deployed an additional four times to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.

He was posthumously awarded his third Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.

His other awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device, three Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, the Iraq Campaign Medal with six Bronze Service Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals, five Overseas Service Bars and the Valorous Unit Award.

Friends of the Grider family already have scheduled a fund-raiser for the family's travel expenses, with any additional money to be placed in an educational fund for Aaron Grider's daughter. The fund-raiser will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Leroy's Bar at Holiday Shores. Admission will be $20, with draft beer and food included.

"It's just terrible; it's unimaginable," Thompson said about her nephew's death. "He was just a great person. For his 30 years, he was something."

Thompson said Grider was very religious. A Lutheran, he met his wife Brittany at a Lutheran church in Colorado. On one of their first dates, they went skydiving.

Grider is survived by his wife, Brittany Grider of Carthage, N.C., daughter Katie-Anne Grider of Raleigh, N.C.; his mother, Rita Grider of St. Louis County; his father, Ron Grider of Brighton and stepmother, Virginia Grider; two sisters, Sherry Grider of East Alton, and Jennifer Thompson of Alton; and his grandmother, Phyllis Grider of East Alton.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Ronald A. Grider was killed in action on 9/18/10.

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