|From The Oregonian oregonlive.com
Soldier mom sought better life in military
Funeral - Orange limousines, leather-clad biker veterans say goodbye to Spc. Michelle Ring, killed in Iraq
Sunday, July 15, 2007
With a soft breeze blowing, a bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace" and an honor guard, family, friends and comrades gathered Saturday in the amphitheater of Willamette National Cemetery to pay final respects to Spc. Michelle Ring, the first woman soldier with Oregon ties to die in the Iraq war.
Ring, who worked in the motor pool of the 92nd Military Police Battalion, was killed July 5 by mortar fire while on guard duty in Baghdad.
About 40 family and friends attended Saturday's service, some ferried to the cemetery in orange limousines with steer horns mounted on their hoods and memorial messages taped to the doors: "Freedom is not free, but it is worth fighting for."
And as a woman who reportedly reveled in the heavy machinery and din of the military motor pool, Ring might have been pleased by the crowd of leather-clad veterans who thundered in on motorcycles to pay their respects.
Family and members of Ring's battalion remembered her as a lost tomboy, a single mother who struggled to provide a better life for her two young sons, then a woman who found a sense of direction and pride in the Army, becoming an outstanding soldier.
Despite misgivings about the war in Iraq, Ring had re-enlisted just weeks ago and was hoping to become a military police officer.
Lt. Col. Leonard Cosby, a member of Ring's battalion who is headed back to Iraq next week, said she exemplified the qualities of a good soldier.
"The soldiers of the battalion I represent are better for having known your daughter," he said.
Born in Portland, Ring attended school in McMinnville before her family moved to Alaska in 1992. A tomboy who loved hunting and four-wheeling, Ring dropped out of high school, then struggled to find her place in the world.
Her first love was a soldier at Fort Richardson in Alaska, who was killed in a fight while she was pregnant with her first son, a friend told the Anchorage Daily News. After her baby was born, Ring moved to Tennessee, where she married briefly, had her second son and worked in two factory jobs.
When she enlisted in the Army in August 2005, she was looking for a path to a better life for herself and her sons.
Ring attended basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C. In 2006, she was assigned to the 92nd Military Police Battalion in Fort Benning, Ga., then shipped out to Iraq, where she worked as a petroleum specialist in the motor pool.
"She was not your typical girl," said Master Sgt. Ronald Barnes, reading the memories of one of Ring's battalion members in Iraq. "She was never afraid to get her hands dirty and get the task done, no matter what it was."
Ring was on guard duty July 5 when she was killed by shrapnel. She was the 106th service member with ties to Oregon or southwest Washington to die in conflicts since Sept. 11, 2001.
She is survived by her sons, Marc, 7, and Brandon, 5; her parents, John and Shirley Stearns of McMinnville; and her sisters, Karen Harbuck of Wasilla, Alaska, and Marilyn Haybeck of McMinnville.
At Saturday's memorial service, a representative for Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski presented Ring's mother and her sons with state coins and state flags. They also received Ring's military decorations, including a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal.
Ted Sickinger: tedsickinger[at ]news.oregonian.com