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Oct. 6, 2010: 22-year-old soldier from New London is a casualty of Afghan war

This undated photo shows Army Pfc. Ryane Clark in battle dress uniform at an undisclosed location. The New London native has been killed in Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 57th Engineering Company at Fort Bragg, N.C., and was stationed in Afghanistan since late December. Courtesy photo

A soldier from New London was killed in combat Monday in Afghanistan after his convoy came under fire. Army Pfc. Ryane Clark, 22, died when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the lead vehicle in which he was a passenger, his father, Rick Clark, said Tuesday. His parents were notified of their son's death late Monday afternoon by a military chaplain and sergeant who came to their New London home to deliver the news.

The family was told the convoy was conducting a mine-clearing operation at Shekhabad, south of Kabul, when the attack happened, Rick Clark said.

Ryane Clark was with the 57th Engineering Company at Fort Bragg, N.C. He had been stationed in Afghanistan since late December. His parents will fly at a future date to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., to be there when the body arrives back in the United States.

"They're so proud of him. He wanted to join the military since he was little," said Trisha Appeldorn, the Veterans Service Officer for Kandiyohi County.

Appeldorn and Kammy Nelson of the local HomeFront Connection visited the Clarks on Tuesday morning to bring their condolences and support. Clark's mother, Tracy, was taking the news of her son's death "very hard," Appeldorn said.

Tracy Clark posted the news on her page on Facebook early Tuesday morning and requested "Prayers for God's strength, please!"

The Clarks also have a 25-year-old daughter, Aleah Auge, who lives in Pennock.

"HomeFront Connection will help the family basically with whatever they need," Appeldorn said. "This is going to be a process ... if everyone could just keep them in their thoughts and prayers."

Relatives, friends and the family's pastor were with the Clarks on Monday night and Tuesday. The first 24 hours were "pretty much" a blur, Rick Clark said Tuesday afternoon.

Ryane Clark was a 2007 graduate of New London-Spicer High School, where he was on the wrestling team. During his senior year he wrestled his way to a conference championship. He also was a Boy Scout, earning the rank of Eagle Scout, the top honor in Boy Scouting, when he was a high school sophomore. His service project: building an information kiosk at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in Spicer.

"He loved the outdoors," Rick Clark said.

Ryane was a patrol leader and instructor who often tutored and mentored younger scouts, he said. "He was always there for people."

Ryane completed the law enforcement training program at Alexandria Technical and Community College, then joined the National Guard. He was activated into the U.S. Army and entered basic training at Fort Bragg a year ago, his father said.

"Ryane had talked about the military service since he was 5 years old," he said.

Clark posted often on his page on Facebook with updates and information for family and friends. One of his first posts from Afghanistan is dated Jan. 6: "The best part about Afghanistan is waking up and seeing mountains."

On Sept. 4 he observed, "You know you have been deployed for a long time when your flipflops, running shoes and combat boot are held together by superglue."

His last Facebook entry is dated at 2:34 a.m. Sunday, the day before he was killed.

Rick Clark said Ryane usually called home about once a month. Because of the time difference, "he would call in the middle of the night," he said. The last time his parents heard from him, Ryane talked about wanting a new pair of boots, his father said.

Clark is the ninth soldier from west central Minnesota to die in action in the Middle East. The eight other soldiers are:

Spc. James Wertish, 20, of Olivia, died July 16, 2009, in Basra, Iraq, serving with the 34th Military Police Company of the 34th Infantry Division;

Sgt. Matthew Ryan Kahler, 29, Granite Falls, died Jan. 26, 2008, in Waygul, Afghanistan, while serving with 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry, U.S. Army.

Sgt. Joshua Schmit, 26, of Willmar, died April 14, 2007, in Fallujah, Iraq, serving with the 1451st Transportation Company, U.S. Army;

Sgt. Kyle R. Miller, 19, of Bird Island and Willmar, died June 29, 2006, in Balad, Iraq, serving with the 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery;

Sgt. Brent W. Koch, 22, of Morgan, died June 16, 2006, in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq, serving with E Company, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion of the 135th Infantry;

Staff Sgt. David Day, 25, of St. Louis Park and Morris, died Feb. 21, 2005, in Baghdad, serving with C Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery;

Sgt. Jesse M. Lhotka, 24, of Appleton, died Feb. 21, 2005, in Baghdad, serving with C Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery;

1st Lt. Jason Timmerman, 24, Tracy, died Feb. 21, 2005, in Baghdad, serving with C Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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