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Fallen sailor comes home to a heros welcome

Ryley Gallinger-Long, 19, Forest Grove High School's first casualty of the Afghan War, will be laid to rest Saturday
by: Chase Allgood A military honor guard carries a casket bearing the remains of Navy Hospital Corpsman Ryley Gallinger-Long of Cornelius from a plane that landed at Hillsboro Airport Wednesday afternoon. The 2010 Forest Grove High School graduate died last Thursday in Afghanistan.

With military precision, right on the dot at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, a sleek white jet carrying the remains of a local sailor who was killed last week in the war in Afghanistan glided to a landing on a runway at Hillsboro Airport.

Navy Hospital Corpsman Ryley Gallinger-Long, a member of the Forest Grove High School Class of 2010, was home.

Under a cloudless summer sky, several hundred people - old and young, many in uniform - waited in the afternoon sun to greet his silver casket, which was draped in an American flag.

A Navy chaplain read from the Bible while members of the Patriot Guard Riders stood sentry and Ryley's family sat in folding chairs on the tarmac, some holding hands and weeping.

Ryley's new bride, Hope, leaned on the shoulder of her husband's identical twin brother, Wyatt, a Navy fire controlman who is due to deploy to the Middle East later this year.

'Today we welcome home a hero,' intoned Navy Lt. Cdr. Steve Mills, based in Astoria with the Coast Guard. 'May his death not be in vain.'

The 15-minute ceremony was a somber lead-in to a miles-long procession from Hillsboro through Ryley's hometown of Cornelius to Forest Grove, where he went to high school, trained with the fire department and met his future wife.

'Ryley would have absolutely loved this,' said Julie Brown of Forest Grove, the mother of one of Ryley's best friends, Cody Brown. 'I can just see him looking around at all these folks and smiling.'

A long string of police and fire vehicles followed the white hearse and vans carrying the family, turning onto Highway 8 from Cornell Road with lights flashing and flags whipping in the breeze.

After passing a number of reader boards along the stretch of highway linking the three cities - many thanking Ryley for his service to the country - the cavalcade halted near the large ceremonial flag on the east end of Forest Grove.

There, a throng of well-wishers flanked the procession, waving and cheering, silently expressing their gratitude and sadness.

Born on the Fourth of July in 1992, Ryley died while on duty with a Marine expeditionary team in the Helmand province of Afghanistan on Aug. 11. He and Hope Young were married in March, just four months before he left on his first deployment.

At only 20 years old, Hope is 'on a mission' after losing her sailor husband, her friend Julie Brown noted.

'Right now she just wants people to know the war is not over,' said Brown, who gathered Wyatt up in a long embrace just before his brother's plane arrived home in Oregon. 'She wants to keep Ryley's name out there and to make people aware of what these boys are doing over there.

'When you're 19 or 20, you never expect anything bad to happen.'

Wednesday night at 9 p.m., mourners where scheduled to gather on the front lawn at McMenamins Grand Lodge to remember Ryley in a vigil lit by glowsticks, said his older brother, Zack Gallinger-Long of Hillsboro.

Ryley will be laid to rest Saturday at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland following a memorial service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Brooke Street in Forest Grove.