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Army Spc. Eric S. McKinley

Died June 13, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

24, of Corvallis, Ore.; assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment, Army National Guard, Corvallis, Ore.; killed June 13 when his vehicle was attacked by small-arms fire and an improvised explosive device in Baghdad.

Oregon soldier killed in Iraq ambush identified

By Brad Cain

Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. — The latest Oregon soldier to be killed in Iraq was a 24-year-old Corvallis man whose stay in the war-torn country had been extended indefinitely, the Oregon National Guard said Monday.

Spc. Eric McKinley was killed Sunday by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad that destroyed two vehicles and wounded four other Oregon soldiers, Guard spokesman Maj. Arnold Strong said.

McKinley’s six-year tour of duty with the National Guard was to have ended April 1. But his stay was extended indefinitely because of the continuing violence in Iraq.

Strong, who met with the fallen soldier’s family members Monday, said, “There wasn’t any anger or vitriol” about the extended stay in Iraq.

“When you are a soldier, you are serving at the discretion of the U.S. Army. He was well aware of that,” Strong said.

Born in Salem, McKinley attended Philomath High School.

An avid outdoorsman, McKinley worked as a baker at Alpine Bakery in Corvallis. Upon his return from Iraq, he hoped to open a juice bar in the college town to provide a drug- and alcohol-free environment for young people, Strong said.

“This was a stand-up guy,” Strong said.

McKinley, the 23rd person with strong Oregon ties to die in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, is survived by his father, Tom McKinley of Salem, and his mother Karen Hilsendager of Philomath. They have asked not to be contacted by the media, Strong said.

“They are hurt and upset with the loss of their son,” Strong said. “They are still shell-shocked with this horrific news.”

The soldiers injured by the bomb were identified as Staff Sgt. Phillip Davis, 23, of Albany; Sgt. Matthew Zedwick, 23, of Bend; Cpl. Shane Ward, 23, of Corvallis and Pvt. Richard Olsen, 23, of Independence.

Sunday’s attack was the second deadly attack on Oregon troops in Iraq in as many weeks.

McKinley belonged to the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry — the same unit as the three Oregon soldiers killed by two improvised explosive devices outside of Baghdad on June 4.

One of the soldiers — Spc. Justin Linden, 22, of Portland — was honored Monday in a memorial service at New Hope Community Church in Clackamas. The service was attended by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

Kulongoski also attended a memorial service for Sgt. Justin Eyerly, 23, of Salem, who was buried Sunday. A funeral for Lt. Erik S. McCrae, 25, was scheduled for later this week.

The Oregon National Guard deployed 705 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, based in Cottage Grove, to Iraq in April.

Soldier killed in Iraq remembered as quiet, caring

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Friends and co-workers remember Spc. Eric McKinley as a quiet, caring young man who dyed his hair, sported several tattoos and loved ska and rock music.

McKinley, 24, was killed Sunday by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad that destroyed two vehicles and wounded four other Oregon soldiers. He was a member of the Oregon National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, based in Cottage Grove.

McKinley attended Philomath High School from his freshman year in 1994 until March 1998, when he dropped out. Staff there say McKinley was decent and polite, although he wasn’t involved much in school.

English teacher Mary Morris described her former student as “friendly and laid back, not the greatest English student in the world, but always a pleasure to be around.”

McKinley’s senior yearbook picture shows a grinning young man with spiked hair dyed red and green. In other 1998 yearbook pictures, he has purple hair, blue hair and a mohawk.

McKinley moved to Corvallis, where he worked for about two years as a baker at Alpine Bakery.

“Eric was a great guy,” said Ryan Barber, a bakery employee and one of McKinley’s friends. “He would give you the shirt off his back if he could.”

Joey and Viki Taylor, who own Alpine Bakery, said McKinley was always willing to work late nights and fill in when other employees called in sick.

“He always did what was asked of him,” Joey Taylor said.

McKinley also spent time at the Taylors’ other business in Corvallis, Sacred Art Tattoo. He got several tattoos at the shop, including those depicting tribal signs on his forearms and pinup girls on his ribcage and chest, Joey Taylor said.

McKinley was deployed to Fort Hood, Texas, in late October. His six-year tour of duty with the National Guard was to have ended April 1, but his stay was extended indefinitely because of the continuing violence in Iraq.

McKinley is survived by his father, Tom McKinley of Salem, and mother, Karen Hilsendager of Philomath.

McKinley’s friends say they’re doing all they can to keep his memory alive.

The Taylors plan to place a plaque at Alpine Bakery in McKinley’s memory.

“I keep trying to tell people he wouldn’t want people to be sad,” Ryan Barber said. McKinley would rather have them remember the good times, he said.

— Associated Press

Family, friends celebrate life of soldier killed in Iraq

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Two weeks after he was killed by a bomb in Iraq, Oregon National Guard Spc. Eric McKinley was remembered at a ceremony Saturday for what he loved in life: punk rock bands, Celtic music, skateboarding and tattoos.

About 500 people attended the memorial service for the 24-year-old Corvallis man at Starker Arts Park in Corvallis. There was a mix of people dressed in either military or punk attire — including McKinley’s six-year-old cousin, who, in tribute, wore his hair in a bright green mohawk.

Coventry Pacheco, McKinley’s fiancee, sat in the first row at his celebration-of-life service. They hadn’t set a wedding date, but were planning to get married.

McKinley was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service, a Purple Heart and the Oregon Distinguished Service Award. U.S. and Oregon flags were presented to his parents, Tom McKinley of Salem and Karen Hilsendager of Philomath.

McKinley’s six-year tour of duty in the National Guard was to have ended April 1, but was extended indefinitely due to continued violence in Iraq. He was killed June 13.

McKinley’s cremated remains were brought before the podium at the start of the event. Family internment will be at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Columbarium in Salem.

The celebration-of-life service featured a bagpiper, the release of a dove, a three-helicopter fly-over, a 21-gun salute, “Taps” and music by Amadan, one of McKinley’s favorite local bands.

— Associated Press

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