Born to Be a Marine, and to Serve

Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan McCurdy, 21, died when he was shot in the chest in Fallujah. With a love of action and sports, his friends say that Ryan was born to be a Marine. Karen Henderson of member station WRKF in Baton Rouge has a remembrance.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Marine Corp Lance Corporal Ryan McCurdy lived for life's challenges. He found great satisfaction in conquering the ones he faced on duty in Iraq. The Baton Rouge native died January 5th after he was shot twice in the chest while guarding a building in Fallujah.

Ryan McCurdy was 20-years-old. Those who knew him say he died doing a job that made him happy.

Karen Henderson, from member station WRKF in Baton Rouge, has this report.

KAREN HENDERSON reporting (WRKF, in Baton Rouge):

Lance Corporal Ryan McCurdy was born to be a Marine. He stood 5 feet, 10 inches tall. He had a muscular, athletic build, and loved any task that required hard, physical work. He excelled in sports from his youth and played baseball, soccer, and football. His friends and family say Ryan was fearless.

His mother, Jan McCurdy, remembers a phone call that would make any mother's heart stop.

Ms. JAN MCCURDY (Mother of Ryan McCurdy): At Christmas he called me up and he was saying, Hey mom, the coolest thing in the whole world is when they start firing at you. He says It's like this giant adrenaline rush, like you're going down the interstate in a car, like 800-miles an hour. It's cooler than that. And I thought, oh, Lord, have mercy, you know, but he was doing something he loved. And he was proud to serve his country.

HENDERSON: Ryan joined the Marines in 2004, the year he graduated from Christian Life Academy. He talked about it for years, and was following in his big brother's footsteps. Grant McCurdy had signed up two years earlier. As devastated as he is by Ryan's death, Grant says his brother's courage and compassion will live on.

Mr. GRANT MCCURDY (Brother of Ryan McCurdy): Ryan didn't die protecting our freedom. He, uh, he died giving someone else theirs. He had a big heart for everybody, you know, didn't matter, you know, how much they didn't like him or, you know, if they loved him or what have you. He, you know, he was always looking out for the little guy.

HENDERSON: So Grant wasn't surprised to hear how much his little brother was loved by those who served alongside him.

Mr.GRANT MCCURDY: I was told a comment by his First Sergeant that's out there with him in Iraq that Ryan was always the first one to get up and go whenever there was something to do, and get it done as fast as he could. He was always the first one to crack a joke, so, that just, you know, shows Ryan, Ryan's character, you know? Hard worker and, you know, you play hard, you work hard, you know?

HENDERSON: Ryan was scheduled to return from Iraq in mid-February, and had about three years left in the Marines, after which he planned to return to his other love, sports. He talked about his plans with his best friend, Brandon Webb, by email just days before he died.

Mr. BRANDON WEBB (Friend of Ryan McCurdy): The main thing we discussed was coaching football, that was our thing. And we were going to go into it together when he got out of the Marines. He was the most laid back, carefree guy. He, nothing fazed him, he never let anybody get him down. Just the most loyal friend.

HENDERSON: Ryan's dad, Stan McCurdy, says he and his wife raised both of their boys in the church, and says it's his family's faith in Christ that helps them cope with the pain of losing their son.

Mr. STAN MCCURDY (Father of Ryan McCurdy): The only saving thing that's got us, kept us though all this, is knowing that we're at peace with where he's at. And, he's in heaven with his Lord and that was his life, you know? Even in high school that was part of what he believed in.

HENDERSON: The funeral for Lance Corporal Ryan McCurdy is was held at Christian Life Fellowship, the church where he grew up and went to school.

For NPR News, I'm Karen Henderson, in Baton Rouge.

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