Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Soldier may be honored with stretch of highway

By ERIC A. HOWALD

Of the Keizertimes

A Keizer soldier killed in Iraq in 2007 might soon have a stretch of Oregon highway named after him. 

House Concurrent Resolution 13, which is set to be considered during the current legislative session, would result in Hill’s family working with Oregon Department of Transportation officials to designate a stretch of highway in Pvt. Ryan J. Hill’s honor, said Abby Weekly, legislative director for state Rep. Bill Post. 

Post is co-sponsoring the resolution with Rep. Julie Fahey of West Eugene/Junction City. The 2015 Legislature created the process through which individuals can be recognized, Weekly said. 

Hill served with Charlie Company in Adhamiya, Iraq. At the time, the area was heavy with insurgents, and the locals were paying a steep price. Caught in the middle of warring factions, some 10 to 20 villagers a day were reportedly being killed as Sunni and Shiite waged war against each other.

Hill, 20, was driving a Humvee on Jan. 20, 2007, when an improvised explosive device detonated (IED) near the vehicle. Hill was killed and the vehicle’s gunner ended up in  critically injured. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division based in Schweinfurt, Germany. He was serving his first tour in Iraq at the time of his death.

Hill’s sense of duty took him to Iraq after graduating from the Oregon National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program in 2006. He had attended McNary High School and worked at the Keizer Albertsons prior to enrolling the Bend-based ChallNGe program. 

Prior to his death, Hill told his mother Shawna Fenison, “I’ve made my peace with God and I’m not afraid of something happening to me. My fear is that something will 

happen to one of my friends and I won’t be able to save them.”

Hill had already experienced the loss of three friends during his months abroad. The first to a sniper attack, the second to another IED and the third was killed while throwing himself on a grenade. 

“I have never cried this much in my entire life,” wrote in a blog post after the first two deaths. “Two men got taken from us way too soon. I wonder why it was them and not me.”

His strong desire to protect friends and allies led him to volunteer to drive the lead vehicle in a caravan on the day he was killed, according to his commanding officer. 

In the years since his death, Hill’s death has been recounted in a book, They Fought for Each Other by Kelly Kennedy, and a Keizer city park in Keizer Station was dedicated to him in 2013. 

Hill was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and the Combat Infantry Badge.