Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Army Spec. Ryan A. Gartner

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Ryan A. Gartner, 23, of Dumont, N.J.

Spc Gartner was assigned to 201st Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Sam Houston, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas; died Feb. 1, 2011 in Bagram, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained in a non-combat incident.

When Army Spc. Ryan Gartner heard his 10-year-old brother say he wanted to join the Army, Gartner decided it was enough, his parents said. Several of Gartner’s friends already had died in Afghanistan, and he didn’t want his little brother to meet the same fate.

Gartner, 23, planned to leave the Army after his second tour’s scheduled end in March, his father, Irvin Gartner, said. Instead, he died Tuesday in Bagram, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained in a non-combat incident while serving with the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Sam Houston, according to a Department of Defense news release.

Gartner lived in Dumont, N.J., but was born in Corpus Christi and will be buried in Aransas Pass, his family said. His body arrived in Delaware on Friday morning.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Patricia Gartner raised her stepson since he was 5.

“Since the first day I saw him, he called me mom, even without knowing we were going to get married,” she said.

Gartner was last home in New Jersey during the Christmas holiday, when he began making plans to leave the Army and join the family's fourth-generation jewelry business. He also wanted to take his 15-year-old sister, whose birthday is Feb. 16, on a vacation to Japan to celebrate her 16th birthday.

Gartner's grandmother, Mariana Soto-Mota of Aransas Pass, said he joined the military to raise money to go to college. "He was a precious grandson," Soto-Mota said. "I missed so much of his life, but I was there for him early on. He used to play horse on top of my husband's back."

The Record newspaper of northern New Jersey reported that Gartner left Dumont High School before his scheduled 2005 graduation, then enrolled in a National Guard youth program. He earned a GED and graduated from the program in 2004.

When he was home in December, he wore a bracelet in memory of a friend killed in action, Patricia Gartner said.

"He wanted to come back and spend time with his little brother and sister," Irvin Gartner said of his son’s desire to see Jacobo, 10, and Melanie, who turns 16 next week. "He actually wanted to spend time with my little son, who wanted to join the Army and be with him."

The only solace for Irvin Gartner is that his soldier-son had grown to understand the important influence he was having on his siblings. That he stood as an example — an object of admiration.

"They all missed each other a lot," the grieving father said Friday. "Every time he came back they were so happy to see him. They wouldn’t leave him alone for a second. He wanted to spend time with them." While overseas, he communicated with his family often through texts and social networking, his father said.

Patricia last spoke to him Jan. 20. He couldn't talk much about his work because it was intelligence-related, but he was clearly frustrated. "He was totally tired of everything, but he was hanging in there and he would soon be home," she said.

His mother was thrilled when a trunk filled with the belongings of Spc. Ryan Anthony Gartner was delivered. But the brave soldier, recently of Dumont, wasn't returning. A military funeral will be scheduled next week for Gartner, 23, who was killed this week while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

"His mother got a call and they told her 'your son died a brave man," Soto-Mota said.
Gartner's mother had called relatives Tuesday excited that his trunk and belongings had come to her house. "She thought he was coming home early," Soto-Mota said. But she was contacted later in the day by military officials who informed her Gartner was killed in the line of duty overseas. "She called me later that night crying," Soto-Mota said. "She loves her son so much."

Public Works crews were removing snow banks from Walsh Drive Thursday afternoon, where Gartner’s father, stepmother and sister live. His mother lives in Texas.
Former classmates said Gartner attended Grant School, Honiss School, and Dumont High School. He left Dumont High School before his scheduled 2005 graduation, but then enrolled in the New Jersey National Guard ChalleNGe Youth Program at Fort Dix. He earned a GED and graduated from the program in 2004.

Gartner was serving his second tour of duty.

“We should be grateful for his service and commitment to our nation and respect, honor and commemorate the ultimate sacrifice he made,” McHale said. “Ryan embodies everything that Dumont was, is and will be.”

His mother, Caroline Oley, has flown to Delaware, where his body was scheduled to arrive early Friday. It will be about another week before he returns to Aransas Pass for a military funeral, his grandmother told the newspaper and TV station.

Army Spc. Ryan A. Gartner was killed in a non-combat related incident on 2/1/11.

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