Recalling a Rebel Turned Disciplined Marine

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Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan Winslow, 19, was killed by a roadside bomb three weeks into his first tour in Iraq. Friends in Hoover, Ala., remember Winslow as a high-school rebel who found himself attracted to the discipline, public service and adventure of the Marine Corps. Les Lovoy of member station WBHM reports.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Outside Birmingham, Alabama, the small community of Hoover has buried one of its own. Nineteen-year-old Lance Corporal Ryan Winslow was killed when a roadside bomb destroyed his Humvee. The same bomb killed two other Marines in Iraq.

We have this remembrance from Les Lovoy of member station WBMH.

Mr. LES LOVOY (Reporter, WBHM): Several hundred family and friends gathered for Ryan's funeral at (unintelligible) Baptist Church. During the service, longtime friend, Ben Kelly(ph) shared his memories. He said it was very important for Ryan to be his own person, on his own terms.

Mr. BEN KELLY: Ryan needed his own personal sense of order. Ryan didn't like to be controlled and he needed to set his own order, his own sense of control.

Mr. LOVOY: At Ryan's home in Bluff Park, friends and family remembered Ryan as a very likeable young man who followed his own path. Jonathan Samson(ph) was a friend since grammar school. At an early age, he noticed that Ryan was a little bit of a rebel, and that was the basis for their friendship.

Mr. JONATHAN SAMSON: The first time I saw Ryan, he was wearing snakeskin boots and we were at church and I thought that was daring to do.

Mr. LOVOY: In high school, he was a little less impressive. He was tall with a baby face, baby fat and deep blue eyes. Those who knew him say that he often hung back in class, making a point to stay below the radar. And like many teenagers, he didn't always apply himself. Belinda Huckabee(ph), his Spanish teacher at Hoover High, said that when Ryan didn't do well on a quiz, she would give him a look.

Ms. BELINDA HUCKABEE: I would raise that one eyebrow, you know, that teacher eyebrow. And Ryan would kind of look at me and he'd grin. He'd nod his head and say, okay, Mrs. Huck, okay. And then the next time around he would make great grades.

Mr. LOVOY: As he grew older, friends say that Ryan became even more determined to be true to himself, not someone else's idea of who he should be. Every once in a while, he bristled at certain rules.

For example, at Hoover High, everyone had to tuck their shirttails in. One day, Ryan and a friend were walking down the hall with them out. A teacher called for the boys to tuck their shirts in. The two kept walking. The teacher approached them and they complied. His friend, Jonathan Samson, said that it wasn't that he had a problem with authority. For Ryan, the rules needed to make sense.

Mr. JONATHAN SAMSON: It wasn't just about the shirts, because he knew that didn't matter in high school. This was a rule that they wanted to tell us what to do.

Mr. LOVOY: Ryan left Hoover High at the end of his junior year. He wanted to be a policeman and he decided to join the Marines because he felt that it would give him the experience and training he needed.

Ryan completed a year at a local junior college to fulfill their academic requirements. But he was overweight and out of shape. His mom, Marynell Winslow, says that once Ryan had made up his mind, he did what had to be done.

Ms. MARYNELL WINSLOW: He went on the computer and found out exactly how much it was that he needed to weigh and established that as a goal and began running every day and dieting until he lost the amount of weight that he needed to do to attain his goal and went after it.

Mr. LOVOY: Once he enlisted, Ryan's friends were surprised that a high school rebel would join the Marine Corps. But, to Ryan, their rules made sense. His father, George Winslow, had another explanation of why he enlisted.

Mr. GEORGE WINSLOW: I remember him saying one time, you know, I like the idea of public service. That was part of it. I think a little bit of him joining the Marine Corps, too, had to do with a sense of adventure. I think he really wanted to be where the action was.

Mr. LOVOY: Learning that Ryan had planned to joined their police force once he left the Marines, the Hoover, Alabama Police Department named him an honorary officer.

For NPR News, this is Les Lovoy.

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