Ryan Long is remembered

By Lynn R. Parks

Ryan Long began his final journey Saturday, in the hands of nine old friends. Draped in an American flag, his coffin was carried from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Seaford, by pallbearers Jeremy Barnes, Chavis Bianco, Sean Locke, A.J. Handy, Jamie Parks, Jason Blocker, Rayshawn Sample, Brian O’Day and Andy Horne, all graduates of Seaford High School, following a 90-minute funeral service. From there, it made its way to Glen Haven, Wis., where Long was to be buried Wednesday in Gockel Cemetery at St. Mary Help of Christians Roman Catholic Church. Long, who would have turned 22 this month, was killed near Baghdad Thursday, April 3, in a suicide bombing. A 1999 gradu- ate of Seaford High School, he was with the 3rd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, based in Fort Benning, Ga. According to Pentagon officials, the car which exploded, killing Long and two other soldiers, stopped at a checkpoint northwest of Baghdad. A woman who appeared to be pregnant jumped out of the car and was screaming. When the soldiers approached it, the car exploded. Also killed were the woman and the driver of the car. Two soldiers were injured. The United State government called the bombing a terrorist attack. “I’m proud to have been a friend of Ryan Long’s,” a tearful Barnes told the nearly 300 people gathered for the funeral. “And on this day, I’m proud to be an American.” Barnes, a midshipman at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, talked about the Long he grew up with. “When we were driving, it was always a challenge who could go fastest,” he said. During one race through Barnes’ neighborhood, Long veered off the road and charged through a field to win the race, he said. “To this day, I can see his face looking back at me, bouncing up and down and knowing he would beat me,” Barnes said. “He always did what he had to do to win and I know that that’s how he fought for his country.” Barnes also described a trip the two friends took. “It was raining so hard we couldn’t see, but do you think that slowed us down? I watched the line on one side of the car and Ryan watched the other, and we went about 80 miles an hour down the road. I trusted him with my life, and I know his fellow soldiers did the same thing.” The service started with taps, played by Bob Lewis, band director at Woodbridge High School, Bridgeville. Flags were carried by the Seaford High Junior Naval ROTC color guard; Long was in the ROTC program as a high school student. Two Army Rangers folded the American flag that covered Long’s coffin prior to the start of the funeral. The flag was replaced with a white pall cloth, which stayed on the coffin until the end of the service, when the US flag was put back on. John Smith, Salisbury, Md., sang “Please Remember Me” and, later in the service, “Angels Among Us.” “Ave Maria,” was sung by church member Christine Bisson. Father John Harrison, priest at Our Lady of Lourdes, told the congregation that it is not God’s will that some people die young or under tragic circumstances. “But such deaths do happen in the world he is creating,” he said. “It is when we feel that there is nothing left but emptiness and desolation that God’s support approaches us most closely,” he added. “We should offer him the full weight of our grief, and he will support us.” Former priest Patrick Gaffney, who headed up classes in religion which Long and his brother Matthew attended, said that he remembered how happy the brothers were when snack food they brought in for the group was a hit. “We have seen Ryan give of his heart, his kindness and his generous support, and no more so than in what happened a week ago,” he said. “Jesus taught us that there is no greater love than to give your life for another. Not only is there no greater American thing than Ryan did, there is no greater Christian thing. “Not only is a hero in the world of America, this man is a hero in the world of God. He is truly a soldier — of God.”

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