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A family mourns

September 17, 2005|By PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT

Friends and family shared fond memories of Ryan Brandt Young, a 32-year-old Halfway native killed in Iraq last week, for his motivation to succeed, devotion to his family and friends, and his illuminating smile during an emotional service Friday at Minnich Funeral Home.

Young died Sept. 7, along with three other Triple Canopy contractors performing high-risk diplomatic security in Basra, Iraq, when a bomb destroyed the heavily armored vehicle in which they were riding.

A 1990 graduate of Williamsport High School, Young, most recently of San Diego, spent more than 13 years in the U.S. Navy, most notably as a Navy SEAL and SEALs Basic Underwater Demolition School instructor, before he started work as a private contractor through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

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Jeremy Engle, Young's friend from the Navy, said he first met Young in 1995 at a base movie theater. Young, out of the blue, approached Engle and "offered his hand."

"He mentioned to me on more than one occasion that he was gonna be a Navy SEAL," Engle said.

Engle later lost track of Young for about a year, but when he saw him again, he almost didn't recognize him. Young told him he was going into training to be a SEAL.

"There was a glint in his eye and a swagger in his step ..." Engle said. "There, standing in front of me, was a man who accomplished his life's dream."

Later, Engle echoed what many of Young's friends, from here to San Diego, had said before him: "He was my friend, my confidant, my bodyguard, my common sense, my inspiration and, in my mind, my brother."

Stephen Brunette, a Department of State representative, also addressed the more than 200 people gathered at the funeral home.

Young, whom Brunette said "represented the best our nation had to offer," could be counted on at all times and was an integral part of the security team in Iraq, he said.

"Ryan knew that the mission was dangerous, but that didn't stop him," Brunette said. "Ryan's bravery and dedication will live on in the hearts of his family, colleagues and of Americans everywhere."

Triple Canopy CEO Ignacio Balderas told Young's family and friends that the Sept. 7 bombing marked the first loss in Iraq for the company, which has been providing diplomatic security there for two years.

David Weaver, Young's brother-in-law, said Ryan, whom many knew by his middle name, Brandt, "had checked off many of those things on our own mental list of things we want to do before we die."

"He lived a very full 32 years," Weaver said. "A life, even with its tragic end, many would trade for, even in its second act."

At the burial in Greenlawn Memorial Park following the service, Young received military honors, including a gun salute and a bugler who played taps.

Two sailors folded an American flag, which had draped Young's casket, in front of his family, who sat in a row under a blue awning, under a gray, drizzly sky, crying and holding each others' hands. One sailor presented the folded flag to Young's father, Greg Young, and whispered something to him, leaning over to him at eye level. Greg Young placed the flag on his lap and grasped the hand of his wife, Pam Young, placing their hands on top of it.

David Weaver, whose wife, Renee Weaver, was Young's only sibling, said at Young's funeral service that the Youngs looked forward to the times their youngest child would return home from serving in all parts of the world.

"Pam would take on a whole new aura," he said. Greg Young, Weaver said, "would beam with pride at the sight of his handsome son."

After the short burial service concluded, the family and Young's girlfriend, Samantha Sinclair, all approached the casket. After all had placed their hands on the casket, Pam Young's hands remained.

She brushed her fingers over it gently and burst into tears.

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