Kenneth Levi Ridgley
Sergeant, United States Army
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 4, 2005
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Sergeant Kenneth L. Ridgley, 30, of Olney, Illinois, died March 30, 2005, in Mosul, Iraq, of injuries sustained when enemy forces using small arms fire attacked his unit. Ridgley was assigned to the Army’s 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Washington.
For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs
at (703) 692-2000.
Steilacoom soldier dies in Mosul
2 April 2005
A Steilacoom man who dreamed as a kid of being a soldier was shot to death Wednesday in Mosul as Stryker soldiers investigated a suspicious car, officials said Friday.
Fort Lewis identified the soldier as Sgt. Kenneth L. Ridgley, 30, originally of Olney, Illinois. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, which is part of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.
His brother-in-law, Earl Strausbaugh, said Ridgley set his sights on being a soldier at a young age.
“Since he was a kid, being in the Army was all he ever wanted to do,” Strausbaugh said. “When he was only 8 or 9 years old, he’d go down and hang out at the recruiting office.”
Ridgley married Strausbaugh’s sister, Charity, last August and was in the process of adopting her 3-year-old son, Dillon. The couple bought a house not long before he deployed to Iraq in October, Strausbaugh said. Charity Ridgley is a prenursing student at Pacific Lutheran University and a cadet in the school’s ROTC program.
“He was scheduled for leave in a month or so,” Strausbaugh said. “That was something they were anticipating greatly.”
Strausbaugh said his brother-in-law looked forward to being a father to Dillon.
“He was a great guy,” said Strausbaugh, who expressed gratitude to the Army for the support it has lent the family since Ridgley’s death.
Five other soldiers were wounded in the incident, officials in Mosul said. No additional information was available Friday about their condition.
Col. Bob Brown, commander of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, said by telephone that his troops have been working hard the past month to find and capture insurgent fighters who are operating out of cars across Mosul.
“They’re putting their weapons in their cars because we’re finding them in the houses,” he said.
Insurgents mainly drive Opels, and it is routine for soldiers to stop them when they spot something they deem suspicious.
That’s what happened Wednesday. Stryker troops had an Opel surrounded when one of the three men inside grabbed an AK-47 and sprayed shots in all directions. A round hit Ridgley in the side of the chest, between the ballistic shields in his bullet-proof vest.
“They got him back to the doc but he didn’t make it,” Brown said. “It’s a tragic thing. He was a great, great young man.”
The Stryker soldiers shot back, killing all three men, and later found numerous rockets and other weapons and ammunition in the car, Brown said.
“We’re speculating that these guys must have been pretty big fish and must’ve thought that if they were captured, they were going to get put away forever, so they felt like they had nothing to lose,” he said.
Ridgley is the 23rd service member from the 1st Brigade soldier to be killed in Iraq, and the 51st from Fort Lewis to be killed there since the 2003 invasion.
A memorial ceremony is scheduled him Tuesday
at Fort Lewis’ Evergreen Chapel.
Saturday, April 2, 2005
In 2003, Sergeant Kenneth Levi Ridgley volunteered to serve as a medic during the initial invasion of Iraq, helping to care for the wounded from Baghdad.
Last August, Ridgley, by then a squad leader with Fort Lewis' Stryker Brigade, had a new wife, Charity; bought a house in her hometown of Steilacoom; and adopted her 3-year-old son, Dillon, before heading back to Iraq.
On Wednesday, Ridgley, who planned to become a registered nurse after leaving the Army, was killed in an ambush in Mosul. He was 30 years old.
"He was my only child," Betty Richards, his mother, said from her home in Olney, Illinois., last night. Because he was her only child, he might have been excluded from Iraq, she said. "I tried to get him not to go, but Levi was doing what he wanted to do. I'm not sure what I'm going to do now.
"I just tell some of the girls I work with that Levi adopted Charity's little boy, and hopefully, I will be a part of that family," she said.
Last night, she leaned heavily upon her husband, Clarence Richards, whom she married when Ridgley was 13 months old. Clarence Richards was "the only daddy he has ever known" and an example Ridgley followed in creating his own family, she said.
Ridgley's stepbrother and three sisters, Clarence Richard's children, were en route to the Olney home, where a circle of family and friends gathered. A memorial service is planned at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at at Fort Lewis' Evergreen Chapel.
Ridgley was the fifth member of the armed forces with ties to Washington state to die in Iraq in March as well as the 52nd Fort Lewis soldier and the 85th with ties to the state to die there since the invasion of March 2003. Nationwide, more than 1,500 U.S. troops have been killed.
The Defense Department said Ridgley was killed by gunfire Wednesday in Mosul. Insurgents attacked while he prepared to get off a Stryker armored vehicle to check a suspicious vehicle at a checkpoint. Five soldiers were injured.
"My son was a big horse person," Richards said. Curious since childhood and always attempting some skill or other, Ridgley left college after four years of indecision about what to do with his life and became a certified farrier -- a blacksmith -- and had worked in Colorado as a wrangler and horse-shoer. "It really made a man of him," she said.
Ridgley graduated in 1993 from East Richland High school, where he joined the Illinois National Guard his senior year. His service helped pay tuition to Southern Illinois University, where he was a roper on the rodeo team.
Ridgley left the Guard after six years to pursue his trade, but after three years joined the Army. "After 9/11 he said he regretted that he had not just joined Army right after high school," his mother said.
She last heard from her son last Sunday. "He wanted a new thermos and coffee mug because his was getting beat up," his mom said. She and her husband bought and mailed them the next day.
"It's probably still in the mail being sent
to him," she said.
Sergeant Kenneth Levi Ridgley, 30, died in Mosul, Iraq, on March 30, 2005 when his unit was attacked by small arms fire while manning a checkpoint. Monday the Soldier was finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery's Columbarium.
A resolution in the Illinois House of Representatives honored its native son shortly after his death.
"Resolved, that we honor the memory of Sergeant Ridgley's life and his willingness to serve our country, which led to him making the ultimate sacrifice; the sheer fortitude and personal courage that he demonstrated was that of a real American hero."
Old Guard Soldiers solemnly carried the Soldier's urn to a small pavilion at the columbarium, followed by his wife, Charity and his mother, Betty Richards.
Ridgley grew up in Olney, Illinois, a town of about 8,000, most well known for its white squirrels. The police department's patches proudly bear the image of one of the white rodents.
Even as a young boy, Ridgley wanted to be a Soldier according to the Associated Press. He hung out at the local military recruiting stations in the town, which is about 150 miles east of St. Louis.
The Illinois House Resolution states Ridgley joined the National Guard while a senior in high school. He served in the guard for six years, while attending the University of Southern Illinois.
Horses were a great love of Ridgley's and he was a roper on his college rodeo team, before leaving school to become a blacksmith. The cowboy joined the Army three years after leaving the National Guard and was assigned to the Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Lewis, Washington.
The Illinois resolution mentions how the Sergeant protected his squad members from enemy fire at a checkpoint by killing several insurgents before being struck in the chest.
"Whereas, the men of his squad and platoon are alive because of the actions of Sgt. Ridgley, who sacrificed everything for the men he was sworn to lead and protect, his actions ended the firefight, allowing his men to be evacuated for medical attention."
Rockets, ammunition and other weapons were found in the stopped vehicle.
The Soldier married in August 2004 and planned to adopt his wife's three-year old son Dillon. Dillon sat on his mother's lap as the chaplain conducted the service.
Three sharp volleys retorted across the back of the cemetery followed by the mournful 21 notes of Taps. The chaplain then led the mourners to the niche where Ridgley rests.
RIDGLEY, KENNETH LEVI
Posted: 18 July 2006 Updated: 20 July 2006 Updated: 25 November 2010
Photos By Eileen Horan, November 2010
Photo Courtesy of Holly, July 2006