By Yamiche Alcindor
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Whether it was helping people recover after a hurricane or fighting in Afghanistan, Capt. Ronald G. Luce loved serving his country.
Luce was one of three soldiers killed Aug. 2 in Qole Gerdsar, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked their vehicle with a makeshift bomb.
Wednesday, more than 100 friends and family members gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to bid the dedicated soldier farewell. The sound of hooves from the horses pulling the caisson, which carried Luce's cherry wood coffin, and the beat of the U.S. Army Band's drums preceded the large funeral party as it slowly made its way down a nearby hill.
Luce, 27, was a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard and was serving as Special Forces team commander with Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), headquartered in Jackson, Miss. Luce was born in Julian, Calif., and most recently lived in Fayetteville, N.C., with his wife, Kendahl Shoemaker, and their daughter, Carle.
He was remembered as a strong soldier with a commanding presence and a keen sense of integrity.
"Ron is the kind of guy that would have been disappointed if he couldn't go to the conflict that our armed forces are involved in," said Steve Murphree, a biology professor at Belmont University in Nashville, who taught Luce. The captain received a bachelor of science degree in biology from the university.
"He was obviously a military guy, and I think a lot of his strength came out because of that," Murphree said.
Murphree described Luce as a dedicated student who balanced military duties with schoolwork and never complained. In fall 2004, Murphree said, Luce took several weeks off from school to help with recovery efforts after Hurricane Ivan struck the Gulf Coast. When Luce returned to his embryology course, Murphree said, his former student worked hard to catch up and earned a good grade.
"I was really impressed with his integrity as a student," Murphree said. "He worked hard and was sincere about making up the work. He just impressed people." Murphree hopes to establish a biology scholarship in Luce's name for Belmont students.
Luce enrolled in ROTC at Valley Forge Military Academy and College and became a commissioned officer in 2002. Six years later, he graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C. He was later reassigned to the 20th Special Forces Group.
Luce also attended the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Infantry Captains Career Course, Ranger School and Airborne School. His awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
When the burial service ended Wednesday, the tears flowed. One soldier, dressed immaculately in a green beret and shiny black boats, wiped tears from his eyes as he left the grave site. Luce's widow, now a young single mother, cradled her daughter in her arms and stared at the soldier's coffin.