Santa Rosa native killed in Afghanistan

June 25, 2008 7:52:23 PM PDT
A young Army paratrooper from Santa Rosa has been killed in Afghanistan, just two weeks before he was due to come home.A young Army paratrooper from Santa Rosa has been killed in Afghanistan, just two weeks before he was due to come home.

24-year-old Ryan James Connolly, whose little girl just turned one-year-old, was killed by a bomb blast in a remote area of Afghanistan.

His parent's home in Vacaville is a place where the neighbors expect to see a flag and where, today, the flying of it brings mournful remembrance.

"All we know is that there were five in a Humvee. There were five people. Two died and three were injured," says Ryan's mother Robin Nelson.

So far, that is all that Robin knows about the death of her son. He was 24, an Army paratrooper, a husband and a family man.

"He's a new dad. His daughter just turned one," says Robin.

Ryan Connolly grew up in Santa Rosa, a community that has now lost 12 sons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, the community mourned Army Ranger Chris Gatherpole, who also died in Afghanistan.

All of them were volunteer soldiers.

"He felt he wanted to do this for this country. Keep them off our soil. Protect all of us from the evil that's out there," says Ryan's stepfather Bob Nelson.

One of the saddest twists to this story is that Ryan was just 14 days from coming home, seeing his family and restoring this old hot rod, which he bought while browsing the internet in Afghanistan.

"They fired up the car for him to hear it on the phone when I was actually out there,'" says Bob.

So now, it sits. It was a project never really begun by a life that ended too soon. Whether in Santa Rosa or Vacaville, or anywhere, Ryan Connolly is a slightly different version of story we've heard before, and will inevitably hear again.

"I can't say more than how proud we were of him, or are, or will be," says Bob Nelson.


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