When I think of my brother, I dont want to be sad

Wyatt Gallinger-Long, Ryley's identical twin, begins to imagine life without him
by: Courtesy photo Twins Wyatt (left) and Ryley Gallinger-Long flank Ryley’s wife, Hope, at the pair’s wedding on March 12.

It's a very real possibility that Ryley Gallinger-Long, with his trademark wit and crooked smile, will always be known as 'the goofier twin.'

That's according to Wyatt Gallinger-Long, who's grappling with the loss of his identical twin brother in an overseas war.

'I guess I'm a little more serious than him,' Wyatt said. 'He never took too many things too seriously.'

Ryley, a Navy hospital corpsman, was killed in the line of duty Aug. 11 while on patrol in Afghanistan's Marjah district, Helmand province, reportedly after coming to the aid of a wounded Marine.

He had only been in the war-torn country for 27 days.

His body was returned to Oregon last Wednesday on a privately chartered jet, and he was buried with military honors in Portland's Willamette National Cemetery on Saturday.

With dozens of friends and family members present, Ryley was laid to rest in Section EE4, Site 1736.

Ways to cope

Now it's left to his parents, Susan Blanchard of Cornelius and Jeff Gallinger of Seaside, to find ways to cope. Ryley and Wyatt's older brother, Zack Gallinger-Long of Hillsboro, is grieving too.

His wife of five months, Hope, will lean on her folks, George and Lora Young of Forest Grove, for strength. She'll cling to Wyatt, as she has since the two of them heard the tragic news, as well.

'Right now the closest thing they have to Ryley is each other,' Zack Gallinger-Long observed.

Serve their country

Since the day they were born, on July 4, 1992, Ryley and Wyatt Gallinger-Long were nearly inseparable, friends say. After they grew up in Cornelius and entered high school in Forest Grove, both young men developed a desire to serve their country.

Ryley decided to become a medic, and Wyatt leaned toward the fire service.

While Ryley was learning the ropes in North Carolina, Wyatt was training in Illinois.

'Ryley made a decision to go into the service his senior year [at FGHS],' said Wyatt. 'I had always wanted to go in.'

But no matter which brother made the choice when, they consistently supported each other, Wyatt noted.

'He was definitely always there for me,' he said.

The night Ryley died, a black car rolled up to the house in Jacksonville where Hope was staying with a friend. Officers inside delivered the worst news a military spouse can hear.

'They had that little paper you only see in the movies,' said Hope. 'One of them said, 'I regret to inform you that your husband was killed in action today.''

The first person Hope called was Wyatt, because she knew he'd be there almost instantaneously.

'They had to carry me back into the house,' she said. 'There'd been a rumor that Ryley had been hurt, so at first I thought they were coming to tell me he was in the hospital.'

Happy memories

The officers' words echo in both their minds, but Wyatt is determined not to let them erase happy memories of time spent with his twin.

'I think about fishing trips, hikes and all the dumb stuff we did together,' Wyatt said, 'things that meant a lot to us but maybe not to others.'

Ryley, he said, was one of a kind.

'The one thing I wish is that everyone would've had the chance to know him like I did,' said Wyatt, who plans to return to Navy schooling in California or Virginia prior to a possible deployment next year.

Having his family and friends close by in recent days has been a huge support.

'It helps a lot, but I know Ryley would hold me up if he was here,' Wyatt said. 'When I think of my brother, I don't want to be sad.'

One of 22

According to the Military Times database, Ryley Gallinger-Long is one of 22 Oregonians killed in the Afghanistan War to date and, at 19, the youngest. Visit www.militarytimes.com and follow the 'Honor the Fallen' link for details.