Luke Smyser Runyan – Corporal, United States Army

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

February 19, 2008

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

They died February 17, 2008, in Diyala Province, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their dismounted patrol using small arms fire.  They were assigned to 2nd Battalion 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington.

Killed were:
Specialist Chad D. Groepper, 21, of Kingsley, Iowa

Specialist Luke S. Runyan, 21, of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania

For more information media may contact the Fort Lewis public affairs office at (253) 967-0152, (253) 967-0147 or after hours at (253) 967-0015 (ask for the Public Affairs Officer on call).

19 February 2008:

Two Fort Lewis 4th Stryker Brigade soldiers were killed in Iraq in an ambush Sunday, the Defense Department said.

Specialist Luke S. Runyan, 21, of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, was killed in Diyala province when his patrol was ambushed. Runyan's death was announced a day after the Pentagon identified another soldier who died in the same attack, Specialist Chad Groebber, 21, of Kingsley, Iowa.

Both men served with the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis. The 4,000-member brigade was deployed to Iraq last April several months earlier than expected as part of President Bush's escalation of U.S. forces in Iraq a year ago to combat increased insurgent violence.

Runyan's father, Marc, told the hometown York (Pennsylvania) Dispatch that Runyan, Groepper and other soldiers were baited from their vehicles by shots fired above their heads, then ambushed. A third soldier was wounded.

Runyan's father learned of his son's death when his son's wife, Courtney, phoned to tell the family, the paper reported. Courtney and Luke Runyan have a 1-year-old baby, Bryan.

“I literally dropped to my knees and started hyperventilating,” Marc Runyan was quoted as saying.

Groepper, meanwhile, the only son of David and Darcy Groepper, also left behind a wife, Stephanie, and a 4-month-old daughter, Clarissa, born four weeks before he returned home on leave last year.

Their deaths bring to three the number of armed forces members from Washington hometowns or military bases who have been killed in Iraq this year, but to 259 those who have died there since the war began nearly five years ago.

According to the Dispatch, Runyan joined the Army in 2004 during his senior year of high school. Though several of his friends fell in combat, Runyan, who became a squad leader last fall, re-enlisted for three more years late last year.

“My heart sank (but) at the same time I was extremely proud of my son,” Marc Runyan recalled of his initial reaction to his son's enlistment. “I knew on a daily basis his life was on the line. He had lost a lot of friends.”

Runyan said his son “had no fear of combat and I guess that was part of his training. He once told me you go out on a mission and if you get hit, you get hit, if you don't, you don't. It's as simple as that. He did feel very strongly they were doing an excellent job freeing the Iraqi people from al-Qaida.”

The soldier's father said his son is to be promoted posthumously to corporal and to receive a Bronze Star Medal for valor, according to the Dispatch. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

19 February 2008:

A young soldier from York County has been killed following a terrorist ambush in Iraq.

Luke Runyon, 21, died on Sunday north of Baghdad. He was a 2004 graduate of Spring Grove High School where this week the flag flies at half staff. Runyon leaves behind a young wife and their one-year-old daughter.

His family says he had a passion for the army, and his life's goal was to serve his country in combat.

Luke Runyan will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. One of the soldiers who survived the ambush will escort Runyon's body to the cemetery.

20 February 2008:

Courtney Runyan didn't expect to meet the man of her dreams on MySpace.

So she was skeptical when Luke Runyan, several years her junior, contacted her out of the blue about three years ago.

“I was just minding my own business, and he sent me a message telling me how pretty I was,” she said on Tuesday. “We talked for a couple weeks. Finally I just called him and said come pick me up. I knew it — love at first sight.”

April 9 would have been the couple's two-year wedding anniversary, she said.

It wasn't to be.

Courtney Runyan is mourning the loss of her husband. U.S. Army Specialist Luke Runyan, a Spring Grove Area High School graduate, died Sunday after being ambushed in Iraq.

He is at least the 16th member of the military with ties to York County to have died in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

Courtney Runyan, 24, said she didn't want to get out of bed when someone started banging at the door about 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

When she saw two men in uniform, she knew what had happened.

“As soon as I got down there I just wanted to slam the door in their face and say it's not mine, it must be somebody else's,” she said. “I guess it sounds kind of morbid, I just knew we wouldn't see the end of his deployment. I kind of always expected to get that visit from those men. I don't know how, I knew it would happen.”

She said she was told Luke died while trying to pursue insurgents in the Diyala province. He and other soldiers had been dropped off by helicopter and had assaulted a house.

The soldiers were told some armed insurgents were running away from the area. Some of the soldiers, including Luke, began chasing them before Luke and a few other soldiers were ambushed.

The U.S. Department of Defense said Tuesday that Luke Runyan and Spcecialist Chad D. Groepper, 21, of Kingsley, Iowa, were killed by small arms fire when enemy forces attacked their dismounted patrol.

They were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division out of Fort Lewis in Washington state.

Friends and family said Luke was a risk-taker who enjoyed snowboarding, hiking, surfing, off-roading and riding his motorcycle.

Father, husband: He was also a wonderful father and caring husband, Courtney Runyan said.

That was never clearer than after her difficult pregnancy, which culminated in a Caesarean section, she said.

She became bedridden after a related infection. Luke, then 20, was forced to bathe her, change the dressing on her wound twice a day, cook, clean and take care of the baby.

U.S. Army Sergeant Peter Resetarits, 21, met Luke Runyan during basic training at Fort Benning, on the Georgia-Alabama border.

Their friendship began while doing push-ups and getting yelled at by a drill sergeant, Resetarits said.

Resetarits said he was thinking how stupid the whole situation was when the two — who didn't know each other — made eye contact.

“I look over at him and he had this sparkle in his eye,” Resetarits said. “He started laughing and I started laughing. Of course it was worse from there on out for us as far as the punishments go.”

For their conduct, the two got a private hour-long punishment session after the rest of the platoon had finished, Resetarits said.

The two were bunk-mates for the four months of basic training, he said, and developed a strong friendship.

“He was the kind of dude, when we'd hang out he was always doing things 100 mph,” Resetarits said. “He just loved to laugh and he loved to live. He just knew how to make the most out of every situation. Now that he's gone, you wonder if that was why he lived like that.”

Chris Runyan, Luke's brother, was at their father's house when they were informed about Luke's death.

Like others, Chris Runyan described Luke as outgoing. He was the type of guy who had the courage to take risks when others were hesitant, Chris Runyan said.

Luke's family tried to persuade him not to join the Army, but he wouldn't have any of it, Chris Runyan said.

“When he gets an idea in his mind, he's going to do it,” Chris Runyan said. “You can't really persuade him not to do something.”

The two used to go on hunting trips and sometimes went to New Jersey beaches, where Luke would go surfing, Chris Runyan said.

A date for Luke Runyan's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery has not yet been set, according to Courtney Runyan. It is expected to occur sometime in March.

A service will also take place in Washington state, where she and Luke lived, she said.

His family in York County is also considering having some type of service within the next week, said brother Chris Runyan.

10 March 2008:

Their knees rose fell in unison as they marched Luke Runyan on the last leg of his journey. The six U.S. Army honor guard members kept their eyes forward as they carried Runyan's flag-draped coffin past dozens of friends and family and toward its eternal tomb.

Runyan, a father, son and husband, was killed February 17, 2008, by small arms fire after being ambushed while serving in Iraq.

On Monday he was buried in historic Arlington National Cemetery, taking his place among more than 310,000 other soldiers laid to rest beneath meticulously aligned white tombstones. The Spring Grove Area High School graduate was the 413th casualty of the ongoing Iraq war to be buried in Arlington. He lies in section 60, grave 8559.

Runyan's wife, Courtney, wearing sunglasses, stood arm-in-arm with a member of the honor guard as her husband's coffin was laid on a platform above his grave.

Close family was then seated before the grave as others gathered behind them.

An Army chaplain offered a brief reading before a lone bugler played Taps. Many of those in attendance put their hands to their hearts or raised them in salute.

A seven-man team fired three volleys from their rifles before flags were presented to Courtney Runyan, Luke's father, Marc, and his mother, Lynette Baker. The flag on Luke Runyan's coffin was given to his Courtney, the mother of their 1-year-old baby, Brynn.

Friends from home: Among those watching was Ryan Henry, 22, who came to pay his respects with three other friends from York County.

“He would do the same thing for me,” Henry said. “He would do the same thing for all of us here.”

Henry said he last saw Runyan more than a year ago during a chance encounter at a shopping mall. Henry's mother told him about Runyan's death on February 19, Henry said. Although he had mourned the loss of family members, Henry said it was difficult to accept that his fun-loving friend and classmate died.

“I never really had that happen to me before,” Henry said.

In high school Runyan owned a Volkswagen Jetta, and Henry owned a pickup truck. The two used to horse around in their vehicles together, Henry said.

“We would do stupid stuff, like high school kids do,” he said.

Amanda Downs, 24, met Runyan while working in a convenience store. Runyan would often chat when he stopped in, she said.

She fondly remembers getting a call from Runyan in 2004 when he was stranded on Route 116 between York and Spring Grove. A wheel somehow came off his Jetta while driving. The two searched the road for lug nuts and retrieved the wheel.

Despite the damage to his car, Runyan took the incident in stride, she said.

“His bumper was all messed up,” she said Monday. “He just laughed. That's all he could do was laugh.”

Runyan was deployed last spring as part of the troop surge announced by President George W. Bush in January 2007.

He re-enlisted for another three-year tour late last year, Marc Runyan has said. Luke Runyan was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division out of Fort Lewis, Washington.

The specialist was posthumously promoted to corporal.

More Than 100 Gather To Mourn Pa. Soldier

Death in Iraq War Brings Outpouring Of Warm Memories
By Mark Berman
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brynn Runyan, 1, sat amid more than 100 mourners, just feet away from the wooden coffin holding her father. She had been separated from him for much of her life by a war half a world away, and yesterday she was within a few feet of him as he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Army Corporal Luke S. Runyan, 21, of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, was killed February 17, 2008, in Iraq's Diyala province when enemy forces attacked his dismounted patrol using small arms fire, the Department of Defense reported.

Yesterday, more than three dozen vehicles lined Bradley Drive, looping around onto Marshall Drive, surrounding nearly half of Section 60 of the cemetery. Mourners, a cold wind whipping at their clothes, followed Runyan's coffin as it was pulled from the silver hearse and carried to his gravesite.

Folded American flags were presented to Runyan's wife, Courtney, and his parents, Marc A. Runyan and Lynette M. Baker.

In an interview with the York Daily Record last month, Courtney Runyan described her husband as a lively, animated “male version” of herself. She said that he was a risk-taker who enjoyed surfing and riding his motorcycle and that he adored their daughter Brynn.

“I'm going to do my best raising her to know that he's the most amazing man I ever met in my life,” she told the paper. “As far as I'm concerned, he's a true hero.”

The two met on MySpace about three years ago, she said . On his MySpace page, Runyan wrote that he was not single “because my heart belongs to the lovely Courtney.” Postings on the page described him as an “amazing man” and ” a hell of a guy.”

“The world loses a great soldier and a great friend,” someone wrote.

April 9 would have been the couple's two-year anniversary, Courtney Runyan told the York Dispatch.

She said that she didn't want to get out of bed when she heard someone banging on her door at 6:30 a.m. one Sunday last month and that she knew what had happened as soon as she saw the two uniformed men.

“As soon as I got down there I just wanted to slam the door in their face and say it's not mine, it must be somebody else's,” she told the Dispatch. “I guess it sounds kind of morbid, I just knew we wouldn't see the end of his deployment.

“I kind of always expected to get that visit from those men. I don't know how I knew it would happen.”

Spc. Chad D. Groepper, 21, of Kingsley, Iowa, also was killed in the attack. Both men were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Fort Lewis, Washington.

Runyan enlisted at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and reported to training in September 2004, according to Fort Lewis officials. He and Groepper were assigned to the brigade's 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment in July 2005, and the brigade deployed to Iraq in April.

Runyan, who graduated from Spring Grove Area High School in 2004, had been awarded the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

Luke Runyan of Spring Grove received another Bronze Star.

Courtesy of the Daily Record/Sunday News
4 July 2008

Marc Runyan is a salesman.

He spends a lot of time on the road. For the most part, it keeps his mind occupied, but three or four times a day he returns to the hard truth.

His son, Specialist Luke Runyan, is not coming home. Luke, from Spring Grove, was killed in Iraq this February in an ambush. He was 21.

“When I do come around to it, the hole is just that much more evident,” Runyan said.

On Tuesday, Luke Runyan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star with valor at a ceremony welcoming his unit, the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, back to Fort Lewis in Washington.

Previously, Runyan had been awarded the Bronze Star for achievement at his burial service in March at Arlington National Cemetery.

“I'm extremely proud of him,” Marc Runyan said. “Our military has done a tremendous job for the Iraqi people, and we should let them continue to do so.”

On February 17, 2008, Runyan's team raided in the village of Bodija, northeast of Baqubah in search of insurgents.

They flew in on UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to catch insurgents before they could set off roadside bombs along approaches to the village and then flee, according to the Tribune News in Tacoma, Washington.

About 10 insurgents escaped, and Runyan's squad was ordered to follow.

The sun was already up that morning. Without the cover of dark, Runyan's men moved in the light, exposed. The insurgent fighters hid in thick vegetation and hip-deep irrigation channels. Once Runyan's team was within five yards, the insurgents opened fire. Runyan's friend, Corporal Chad Groepper, a 21-year-old from Kingsley, Iowa, was killed right away.

Runyan and two other soldiers were pinned down. They maneuvered to the left, crossing a canal over a fallen palm tree. A round struck a grenade on Runyan's vest, igniting the propellant inside and mortally wounding him.

It's good to know Luke's unit is home from Iraq, Marc Runyan said, but it offers him little lasting comfort.

“I'm glad the boys who did get home got home safely,” Marc Runyan said. “I feel an affection for these soldiers because my son fought with these guys. They became my son's second family.”

Runyan said Luke's wife, Courtney Runyan, updates him on how some of the soldiers are doing. Some are fighting depression, he said. Runyan wants to know only so much.

“These guys were the thrust of the surge, and they've seen some heavy-duty stuff,” Runyan said. “Luke had five scouts under him, and each one was killed off one at a time.”

Time has yet to help ease the pain, he said.

“This is the hardest thing I've ever had to endure,” he said.


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