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County native killed in bombing

September 09, 2005|by Pepper Ballard

HALFWAY

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Ryan Brandt Young, a 32-year-old Halfway native working as a contractor performing high-risk diplomatic security in southern Iraq, was killed Wednesday when a bomb destroyed a heavily armored vehicle in which he was riding.

Young, 32, was a 1990 graduate of Williamsport High School who served in the U.S. Navy for more than 13 years, most notably as a Navy SEAL and Navy SEAL instructor, said his father, Greg Young.

Ryan Young, whom many knew by his middle name, was in Iraq as a security contractor for Triple Canopy and was working with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. He was in the lead vehicle of a motorcade escorting someone from an airport to the U.S. Embassy in Basra, when the bomb went off, said his mother, Pam Young.

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Three other Triple Canopy contractors - Ronald Hyatt of Calera, Ala., Robert McCoy of Refugio, Texas, and Robert Pole of Miller Place, N.Y. - were killed in the blast, the Associated Press reported.

"We're not sure where the bomb was or how it was detonated," Pam Young said, her eyes red from crying. Family friends surrounded the Youngs in their Halfway kitchen, lending support while sharing the same misty eyes.

"We were told it was a devastating blast, that it was instant," Greg Young said.

The Young family was notified of the death Wednesday morning.

In a U.S. Department of State press release, Spokesman Sean McCormack wrote that the men "were valued members of the State Department family and of our Diplomatic Security team in Baghdad. These brave men died in service to their country and were killed by terrorists seeking to destroy the framework of democracy for Iraq."

The Associated Press reported that "in a statement posted on a Web site known as a clearing house of militant claims, al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack."

Pam Young said when she talked to her son last, about 10 days ago, "He was very happy, very up, but he usually was. He wasn't a person who was down."

She said, "He said the Shiites were not very nice people ... He was concerned."

The Youngs said their son, who traveled the world as a SEAL, including service in the Persian Gulf War, had been in harm's way so many times that they have tried not to think about the possibility he would die. He received a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for putting out a fire on the USS John F. Kennedy.

"Everyone else ran away from it and he ran toward it," Greg Young said.

He said his son once told him: "Dad, if anything should ever happen to me, I want you to know I enjoy what I'm doing. I'm doing what I want to do."

Ryan Young served as a Navy SEAL for eight years, spending the last three years of his service as a combat diving instructor in Coronado, Calif., Greg Young said.

"That was his life's dream, to be a Navy SEAL," Pam Young said. She said her son officially proclaimed he would be a SEAL when he was about 14 years old.

"He was always playing with soldiers," she said.

In March, Young was sent to Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, after accepting a post as a contractor, but he came back in May. In July, he was sent to southern Iraq.

Wil Fisher, 32, joined the Navy at the same time as Young and remembers his lifelong friend as "very dedicated, motivated and patriotic."

"He was a professional. He's done this for most of his adult life. It takes a unique individual to do that, to keep yourself in harm's way even after getting out of the military," Fisher said. "That's what he believed in. He believed in this country."

Fisher said he couldn't see Young "as anything but a SEAL."

"He's a hero. He's always believed in this. I'm proud to say he is my friend," Fisher said.

Young attended Lincolnshire Elementary School, Springfield Middle School and Williamsport High. He played high school soccer and had been a member of youth baseball and junior football teams.

He always kept in touch with his friends, sometimes e-mailing several at a time, Greg Young said. And he always had room for more.

"He never met a stranger," Pam Young said.

Greg Young said his son, who most recently lived in San Diego, was incredibly fit, competing in marathons and enjoyed surfing, mountain climbing and snowboarding.

His physique and a smile Pam Young said made "his eyes twinkle" landed his photograph on the cover and in photographs in six of the 13 months of the 2004 "Men of the Navy SEALs" calendar. Her son also did modeling in California, was featured on "American Hot Rod" and did a commercial with former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, she said.

As Pam Young flipped through the calendar Thursday morning, she also pointed out her son's friends. A couple of them already had been killed, she said.

Ryan Young's sister, Renee Weaver, 37, was having a hard time dealing with her brother's death, the Youngs said. Weaver and her husband, David Weaver, have twin 6-year-old girls, Peyton and Morgan, "that were absolutely crazy about him," Pam Young said.

When Morgan was told Wednesday about her uncle's death, she asked, "Does that mean he won't be home for Christmas?" Greg Young said, his voice trembling.

Ryan Young recently received a bachelor's degree in business management from National University in San Diego. Greg Young said he asked his son if he would ever use his degree.

Young responded, "Dad, I just can't see myself cooped up in an office."

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