Remembering fallen soldier
Sunset graduate Sgt. Danial Adams was a man who fully embraced life
It was a sultry Saturday afternoon in early autumn, the kind of glorious Indian summer day that Sgt. Danial R. Adams might spend water skiing, hiking, skateboarding or just playing outside with his three children.
Tragically, however, it was a day spent recapping rather than building on Adams' life. The 1994 Sunset High School graduate was killed in combat in Wardak province, Afghanistan, on Sept. 13.
Hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday in the gym of the 41st Infantry Division Armed Forces Reserve Center in Clackamas to remember Adams, 35, for his adventurous, loving spirit, intense loyalty and ability to live life to the fullest.
Col. John Deedrick, commander of the airborne 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group in Stuttgart, Germany, where Adams was based, spoke warmly of Adams' consistent dedication to excellence.
'What set Danial apart for me was he gave more than he received,' Deedrick said from the podium at the heartfelt 30-minute service. 'He made everyone around him better and made their lives so much richer.'
A slide show illustrated the words of Deedrick and others who shared their memories of Adams as a trusted friend, devoted father and a skilled, disciplined and fearless soldier. The master sergeant known to friends as 'Slim' was seen at work and at play - laughing with friends, family and fellow soldiers while skiing, rock climbing, hiking or just getting the job done.
They were among the images that stood in for Adams, for whom a memorial service will be held Friday at Fort Bragg, N.C. The southeastern military base is where Adams' wife, Melany, and their children, John, Jeff and Skye, resided before Danial's overseas deployment.
Adams' parents, Jim and Penny Adams, and sister, Brandi Schaper, who all live in Hillsboro, planned Saturday's ceremony.
A Green Beret since 2005, Adams served in his first Special Forces assignment as senior medical sergeant with the airborne 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg. In 2009, he transferred to Stuttgart, Germany, where he served on the Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan.
Garrett McDermid, a U.S. Navy special operations officer first class based in San Diego, met Adams when he was in middle school and his brother, Aaron, was a classmate of Adams at Sunset High.
Garrett warmly recalled his friend's 'derring-do' as an adolescent skateboarder whipping down the steepest of hills.
'I guess it's a cliché, but you don't realize how much a part of you they are until they're gone,' he said before the crowd of mourners. 'He was a great friend. If you were his friend, you couldn't ask for a better friend. If you were his sister, you couldn't ask for a better brother. If you were his parents, you couldn't ask for a better son.'
Assigned to the airborne 1st Battalion 11th Special Forces Group, in Stuttgart, Adams was conducting combat operations with his Special Forces team. He suffered wounds when insurgents attacked his unit using mortar, machine gun and small-arms fire.
Born in Scappoose, Adams spent his formative years in Hillsboro, where he moved with his parents. He joined the military in 1995, as an infantryman with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, in Fort Benning, Ga. He served with 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry at Fort Richardson, Alaska, before relocating closer to home - at Fort Lewis, Wash., with the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry.
Adams was honored at the memorial service with a three-volley rifle salute from behind the gymnasium. Mourners stood as 'The Ballad of the Green Berets,' a popular 1960s recording by Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, echoed through the auditorium.
After the memorial event, Adams' first cousin Chuck Harris fondly recalled a treasured family picture from decades ago of the two boys riding on an elephant after a circus unloaded its cargo in Portland.
'It was something,' said the St. Helens resident.
Harris said it didn't surprise him a bit when Adams decided to join the military after he graduated from Sunset High School.
'I knew he would. His dad served forever,' he said. 'We'll miss him.'
A plaque inside the school recognizes Adams service to his country.
He received numerous honors for service above and beyond the call of duty, including the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign medal.
Brooke McDermid, who got to know Adams as Garrett and Aaron's younger sister, said the soldier was 'like a brother, part of the family.'
Adams' sensitive, compassionate side often gets lost, she noted, in the talk of his robust approach to life.
'He definitely had a zest for life, an adventurous side, but also he had a great caring side as well,' she said. 'He cared about a lot. He will be greatly missed.'
Adams' family members request gifts or donations in Danial's memory go to the Fisher House for Families of the Fallen at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Donations may be made online at www.fisherhouse.org/donate .