Oregon, Kansas plan honors for fallen soldier

Oregon, Kansas plan honors for fallen soldier

Flags at public institutions across Oregon will be lowered in memory of a former Grants Pass resident killed while on patrol in Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense said U.S. Army Pfc. Richard Dewater, 21, died April 15 from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device. Gov. Ted Kulongoski has ordered flags be flown at half-staff Saturday in Dewater's honor.

Dewater attended Grants Pass High School in 2004 and 2005 before moving to Topeka, Kan., where his father lives. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Saturday in honor of Dewater.

Dewater was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas.

Dewater, 21, died April 15 from wounds inflicted by an improvised explosive device, while on patrol near Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.

A funeral service is planned for 9 a.m., Saturday, at Roseburg National Cemetery.

Detwater went to North Valley and Grants Pass high schools in 2004 and 2005, and lived in Grants Pass on and off since he was 2, according to his father, Robert Dewater.

Richard Dewater also left behind a young wife, Victoria, who lived at Fort Hood, Texas, where he was assigned. They were married a month before Dewater left for Afghanistan in July.

Victoria Dewater, who was born and raised in Topeka, married Dewater in June 2008.

"He was the most amazing person you could ever meet," she told the Topeka Capital Journal newspaper.

"We had a really good relationship. He was my soul mate. When he asked me to marry him, I told him I would be honored. I wish I could marry him every day for the rest of my life."

She said she was notified of her husband's death on April 15 with a knock on her front door.

"I plopped down in a pile of laundry and cried," she said. "It has been hell. I knew being an Army wife would be tough. I hurt, but being an Army wife has helped. It hits me off and on. It hits me when I go to sleep and when I wake up. I am going to be fine, though. He is home, but I wish he could have come home with his comrades."

Robert Dewater said he spoke to his son around about two weeks ago and said "he was upbeat."

He also said that, while his son didn't tell him directly, he put "2 and 2 together" that his son's patrol ambushed the Taliban around April 10. He also says he knows "too much" about how his son died.

According to the New York Times, Dewater's platoon was pinned by the Taliban along the Korengal River, and Dewater was the only one killed. The bomb went off as he walked over it.

The article confirmed what Robert Dewater said, that the platoon had ambushed the Taliban and killed 13 a few days earlier.

The Times also published a photo showing Dewater crossing the river shortly before he was killed.

A photograph showing Dewater's flag-draped coffin arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware was distributed by the Associated Press on Saturday. The photo's release was made possible by a change in policy at the Pentagon, which in February reversed a ban against such photos.

Under the new policy, families of fallen soldiers decide whether photos of their loved one's flag-draped caskets can be taken and distributed.

Dewater was assigned to a unit based at Fort Hood, Texas. He graduated from the Infantryman One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., in 2008.

Private First Class Dewater's awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and NATO Medal.

Dewater's mother Brenda lives in Georgia with his stepfather, who is also in the military. His younger brother Nicholas, 18, also lives in Georgia.

Material from The Associated Press and the Grants Pass Daily Courier was used in this report.

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