Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Army Pvt. Ryan L. Larson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pvt. Ryan L. Larson, 19, of Friendship, Wis.

Pvt Larson was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; died June 15, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

19-year-old soldier from Friendship killed in Afghanistan

Army Pvt. Ryan J. Larson, 19, of Friendship, was killed in an insurgent attack in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan.

A popular, athletic Adams County teenager who went to Afghanistan with the Army in April was killed Wednesday by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense announced Thursday.

Pvt. Ryan J. Larson, 19, of Friendship, died in Kandahar Province, said Chuck Canterbury, a media relations officer for the Army at Fort Wainwright, the base in Alaska where Larson was stationed.

Larson was senior class president before he graduated in 2010. He played trumpet in the school band, lettered in three sports and earned grades that put him on the honor roll each grading period of his high school career, said Adams-Friendship High School principal Timothy Hodkiewicz.

"He had a quality of quiet leadership, common sense, very personable, not the too-talkative type," Hodkiewicz said. "He had the respect of everybody. A top-notch gentleman from top to bottom."

Larson wasn't a big kid. He weighed about 110 pounds and suffered a few pulled muscles trying to run with longer-legged members of the cross country team, said his math teacher and running coach, Mike Norton.

He had the words "I'm fine" printed on the back of his practice uniform. Those were the words he said every time Norton voiced concern he was pushing himself too hard after an injury.

"His heart and his soul were definitely bigger than his body," Norton said.

Larson had a way lifting the spirits of his teammates and fellow students.

"If they were having a hard day, he brought them up," Norton said. "He knew how to read people. He knew how to make them feel good about themselves."

In addition to running cross country, Larson was a left-handed pitcher and outfielder for the baseball team and a member of the wrestling squad that won four conference championships while he was a member, Hodkiewicz said.

He joined the Army as soon as he graduated, but when he was home on leave he came back to the wrestling practice room at the 500-student high school to work with the team.

"He was a person that you'd like to have be your son," Hodkiewicz said.

"He always wanted to join the Army and he enlisted as soon as he could," Hodkiewicz added, remembering seeing him at school wearing a shirt with the recruiting slogan "Army Strong."

He completed basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., and arrived at Fort Wainwright in October, according to a news release from his unit, the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

Larson was an only child. The teen's mother and grandmother went to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where his remains were expected to arrive, Hodkiewicz said.

Students and school staff were shaken by news of Larson's death. The school made three counselors available, Hodkiewicz said.

"He was a great guy because no matter what you were feeling, if you were in the lowest low of your life, he could do or say anything that could put a smile on your face," said his friend Cami Ebert, 18. "He was just awesome. There's really not words."

Larson was the fifth Wisconsin soldier killed in Afghanistan this year.

Two other soldiers were injured in Wednesday's attack, but their wounds were not life-threatening, officials said. The families of all three were notified, Canterbury said.

— State Journal reporter Samara Kalk Derby contributed to this report.

Army Pvt. Ryan L. Larson was killed in action on 6/15/11.

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