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Afghan War claims first Forest Grove High grad

Navy corpsman Ryley Gallinger-Long, 19, a member of the Class of 2010, died Thursday

Ryley Gallinger-Long, a member of Forest Grove High School's Class of 2010, became the first known Afghanistan War casualty from the Forest Grove area when he died in the line of duty on Thursday.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Defense, the 19-year-old Navy hospital corpsman, who was from Cornelius, was killed while conducting a dismounted patrol in the Marjah district, Helmand province.

Gallinger-Long was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, 2nd Marine Division Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.

He was married just five months ago to Hope Gallinger-Long, who is from Forest Grove. Her online blog indicates Ryley had deployed to duty in Operation Enduring Freedom in mid-July.

His mother, Susan Blanchard, lives in Cornelius. His identical twin brother, Wyatt Gallinger, is also in the Navy and lives in Chicago.

Cody Brown, an intern with Forest Grove Fire and Rescue and a longtime friend of Gallinger-Long's, said family members would be in Washington, D.C., this weekend waiting to collect Ryley's body from the government.

A funeral will be held in Forest Grove next week, Brown said, with burial planned at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland.

He described Ryley as 'the sweetest guy' who was always 'very upbeat.' Ryley, Wyatt and Cody, all high school classmates, enjoyed fishing together.

They joined the military within three months of each other in 2010, with the Gallinger brothers heading to Navy training and Brown joining the Air Force. Brown left the Air Force after sustaining an injury, but the Gallingers remained in the service.

'This was Ryley's first deployment, and he was only [in Afghanistan] for 27 days,' Brown said.

'Ryley was the kind of person who always walked away from an argument, because he hated conflict,' he added. 'Nothing bad ever happened to him.'

Two other local men are known to have died in combat in the wars in the Middle East. Ken Leisten Jr., a National Guardsman from Cornelius, was killed in Iraq in July 2004. Joshua Tillery, an Army chief warrant officer from Banks, was killed in Iraq in January 2009.