Potomac News Online | Friends remember soldier

Virginia National Guardsman Sgt. David Ruhren was as enthusiastic as any cheerleader, even though he needed a little persuading before he joined the squad.

Eventually his friends won him over and the guy they affectionately called a “goofy kid” joined the Godwin Middle School cheerleading squad to rave reviews.

“Every time I was thrown in the air, I knew David would catch me,” said Ruhren’s friend and former-classmate Beth Allen between tears Thursday afternoon at Ruhren’s funeral. “I never doubted it.”

For Amanda Menzie, Ruhren was simply her partner in crime at Gar-Field High School, as well as one of her best friends.

“He was the first person I met when I went to Gar-Field [High School],” Menzie said. “We had a class together and we met on the first day in German class … I never thought that five years later I would have to bury him.”

Eight days after a suicide bomber killed Ruhren and 21 other people in a dining tent in Mosul, the 20-year-old North Stafford resident and Gar-Field alumnus was laid to rest at Quantico National Cemetery with full military honors.

Following a private service at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle, Ruhren was buried in front of about 100 family, friends and fellow servicemen.

Bagpipes wailed “Oh, Danny Boy” as pallbearers walked Ruhren’s casket toward a small open-air building where a private service was held.

Ruhren’s mother, Sonja, was given an American flag for his service to the country, while people fought off tears.

At the end of the service, family members helped a crying Sonja to a limousine and left without comment, but others were happy to remember him.

“David was always half a step behind me, waiting to trip us up,” said Maj. Alice Smith, Ruhren’s JROTC instructor at Gar-Field. “He changed, though, so much during the three years he was there. He came in a goof ball, but was a man when he left.”

Ruhren spent three years in Gar-Field’s JROTC program.

He joined the Virginia National Guard as a combat engineer just a month and a half after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, while still a student at Gar-Field.

Ruhren was assigned to the 229th Engineer Company in Fredericksburg and volunteered for service in Iraq. He was mobilized with the Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion on Dec. 19, 2003, for duty.

Ruhren made a short trip home around Thanksgiving after almost a year in the Middle East. He was eating lunch in the dining tent on Dec. 21 when the terrorist struck.

Thursday’s funeral was a hard reminder for those involved that the war halfway across the world has its effects. Ruhren was the fourth area service man to die in Iraq this year, and the second from Gar-Field’s class of 2002. Marine Sgt. Brian Medina died Nov. 12 in Fallujah.

Ruhren’s friends remembered him not as a soldier, but a person.

“David would do anything for anyone,” Menzie said. “He would always help out the little guy.”

And sometimes he would even shove the little guy in a trash can.

“He just did that because he thought I would fit,” Allen said. “He always called us midgets. It was so cute.”

And Thursday, his friends called him a hero, even though they’d be glad to be put in a trash can if they could have him back.


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