To all of those he left behind, Luke Runyan will forever be frozen in their memories.

They will recall the energetic child who was described as being more animated than the Cartoon Network. They will recall the thrill-seeker, the guy who liked to ride motorcycles, fast. The guy who loved to surf. The guy whose devotion to his nation and his comrades could not be measured.

To his daughter, 1-year-old Brynn, he will live only in the memories of others. Her father may not be physically present, but he will be there in spirit, handed down moments at a time to Brynn by those who loved Mr. Runyan.

His wife, Courtney, asked him once to write a letter to Brynn, something that could be put away should he not return from the war. Mr. Runyan told his wife not to worry about it, that wasn't going to happen. He was young and tough and smart and had that sense of invincibility that comes with youth and confidence.

He was a thrill-seeker. He put this quote in his high school yearbook: "If you want to be able to experience the ultimate thrill, you have to be willing to pay the ultimate price."

Prophetic words.

Mr. Runyan was doing what he wanted to do with his life when he was killed last Sunday in Iraq. His unit was ambushed in Diyala Province. Runyan and another soldier, Spc. Chad Groepper of Iowa, were killed. He was the 20th soldier with York County ties to die in the war.

Mr. Runyan was only 21.


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His biography may be slim, only spending slightly more than two decades among the living, but he lived a lot of life in his time here. He loved life. He loved Courtney. He loved Brynn.

And he loved the guys he served with.

His brothers.

They had a special bond. They witnessed the horror first-hand. They witnessed the worst inhumanity you can imagine. They also witnessed the best humanity, evidenced by the story of Mr. Runyan saving the life of an Iraqi child.

When young men die at war, the word "hero" gets thrown around a lot.

Mr. Runyan was a hero, to be sure. He died so others could live. There is nothing more heroic.

But he was also just a man. A husband. A father. A son.

And no matter what you think about this war, its purpose or lack thereof, its execution or lack thereof, its conclusion or lack thereof, you have to respect Mr. Runyan's service and sacrifice.

"Now . . . it kind of leaves a hole in your heart," said his high school guidance counselor Margaret Mummert.

For now, and forever.