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Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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Red balloons to remember fallen soldiers

All across the Eastern shore folks gathered or stood alone and launched red balloons to honor all fallen or deceased soldiers.

The event was started as a tradition by Sonja Ruhren who lost her son David, on December 21, 2004 when a suicide bomber made his way into a mess hall in Mosul, Iraq and set off a bomb.


Ruhren recalls getting the news at 3:30 a.m. that her son had been killed along with 22 other service men in that deadly attack, while serving a tour of duty with the Army National Guard.

“The boys were going on their next mission and were detained and went to the mess hall,” recalls Ruhren. Ruhren was referring to David and two of his friends, Nicholas Mason of King George County and Richard Hursh of Stafford County who were all standing together at the time of the explosion.

David and Nicholas did not survive the blast and Richard was badly wounded.

Sonja began launching a red balloon, David’s favorite color on his birthdays and other holidays as a way to be close to him and on the anniversary of his death. She would launch a red balloon at noon, precisely when the bomber detonated the bomb.

Eventually friends like the Masons and others she had met along the way asked to join in on the Dec. 21 balloon launches.

This year the American Legion in Colonial Beach hosted the first event in Colonial Beach, spearheaded by Councilman Tim Curtin. The event is very close to Curtin’s heart because he lost many friends in that bombing. Curtin had just shipped out from Mosul about an hour before the bombing.  

Sonja celebrated the launch with the Masons in King George but Rudolf Vogel, grandfather of Nicholas Mason attended the Colonial Beach balloon launch.

Looking at the 350 balloons tied to tents, Vogel told The journal with a smirk, before the launch, “There’s going to be some lost and popped; Nicholas was a mischievous boy!”

And indeed while attendees tried to untie the bundles several were let go early and a few did pop.

Twenty mixed green and white balloons were launched at 9:30 a.m. to honor the 20 children who lost their lives in a school shooting one week earlier, when a gunman opened fire at the Newtown Connecticut Elementary School killing 20 children and seven adults that day, his own mother, six teachers and faculty including the principal, before turning the gun on himself.

The group launched another 26 green and white balloons at noon while launching the 350 red balloons for soldiers lost and particularly the men lost in Mosul eight years ago.

The wind seemed to die down just after launching, giving the group a chance to pause to remember loved ones.

 

Linda Farneth

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