Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, January 10, 2007, the flag flew at half mast in the small coastal town of Sabine Pass, Texas. The neighbors had learned of the sacrifice of their hometown son, Specialist Ryan Berg, who was 19. He was fighting the war in the land of Iraq.
Army Specialist Ryan Berg was an American soldier. When others his age were talking about going to college or working in the nearby refineries, Ryan went to the local Army recruiter's office on his 18th birthday and joined the United States Army, knowing America was at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was proud to be an American, and Ryan chose to serve his Nation. He wanted to make a difference by being an American soldier. Ryan Berg had spent his entire life in Sabine Pass, Texas, and he knew everybody in town. Ryan always planned on returning to his home to live and raise a family after he finished his duty with the United States Army and for America.
Like his mother and his father, Ryan attended and graduated from Sabine Pass School. The Sabine Pass School has all the grades in just one building. Ryan played football, basketball, and golf. Childhood friends of Ryan knew him as an outgoing and friendly guy. One of his friends said, ``There wasn't anything or anyone he didn't like, and everybody liked him.'' He was a gentleman who always helped others who needed it in Sabine Pass.
Ryan knew his calling after high school was to join the United States Army. He simply wanted to protect his country, like he had protected those he knew and loved all his life. He was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. Ryan met his wife, Katie, in September of 2006, just a few months ago. The young newly wed couple soon received the news that Ryan, like so many others before him, would be sent to the desert sands of Iraq.
He was deployed to Iraq on October 4, 2006, and he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Calvary Regiment, 3rd Brigade, Alpha Section, 3rd Platoon.
Ryan called home weekly, but the thunder of battle sometimes forced him to quickly end those phone calls. As the 2006 Christmas season approached, Ryan was given last-minute leave to spend the holidays at home in Texas with his family and his neighbors in Sabine Pass.
During Christmas, Scottie, Ryan's mother, held her son tightly and told him that she was not going to let him go back to Iraq. Ryan replied, Mr. Speaker, ``I've got to go back over there. I've got to make it safe for my wife, my mom, my dad, and all those I love.''
Mr. Speaker, amazing people, these Americans who go to war. On January 4, 2007 with nearly a year to go in Iraq, the teenager returned to the battlefront to fight against these insurgents and their terror against the people of Iraq. Ryan was only in Iraq for 5 days when he was shot by a hidden enemy sniper. The wound was fatal.
Last week, 19-year-old U.S. Army Specialist Ryan Berg became the first son of Sabine Pass, Texas, to be killed defending freedom in that land far, far away, of Iraq. For his courage during combat, Ryan was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
The news of his death at the hands of the anarchists stunned the Berg family and the people of Sabine Pass. Through their tears, Ryan's mother and father, Scottie and Travis; his brother Brad, his sister Marissa, and his new wife, Katie, and countless other relatives and friends have, in their anguish, honored the American warrior.
Ryan's loved ones expressed their pride of his service to America and the bravery their soldier exhibited throughout his career. They also asked for the community to pray not only for Ryan but for those soldiers still amid the dusty trenches fighting for freedom and securing liberty.
Those who knew Ryan, and I have a photograph of him, Mr. Speaker, those who knew him, remember his loyalty to his family and to his friends, but not only as a man who never knew a stranger, but Ryan devoted his life to guarding them from danger, those especially who could not stand up for themselves.
This Nation owes its gratitude, its liberties, its freedom, to people like Specialist Ryan Berg and to brave soldiers who have walked the path of sacrifice for the rest of us.
So God bless Sabine Pass, Texas and God bless the Berg family and God Bless Ryan Berg.
It has been said that when the Roman Legions went into battle one of their generals once told his men, ``How you yet live will echo throughout eternity.''
Ryan, your deeds will always speak the example of the spirit of the American soldier.
And that's just the way it is.