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Tuesday, Apr. 12, 2005 at 2:21 PM
Army Sgt. William Dean Richardson, of Moreno Valley, enlisted after the 9/11 attacks.
william_dean_richardson.jpg, image/jpeg, 300x262
Inland GI Dies in Firefight
11:44 PM PDT on Wednesday, April 6, 2005
By JOE VARGO / The Press-Enterprise
MORENO VALLEY - Army Sgt. William Dean Richardson so fretted about the new guys in his squad that he couldn't wait to rejoin them when the outfit returned to Iraq for a second tour of duty.
Most of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, went back to Iraq in January and February, but Richardson stayed on in the United States completing sniper training at Fort Benning, Ga.
In conversations with family members, though, his thoughts always returned to the first-time soldiers, the guys who'd never seen combat and who might take needless chances on the battlefield.
Richardson, 23, returned to Iraq on March 15. He died Sunday protecting his men.
"He's my hero," said Greg Richardson, his older brother, from the family's home north of Highway 60. "He was my best friend. I'm three years older but I always considered him by little big brother. He was someone I looked up to and idolized."
Richardson's outgunned squad came under heavy attack as they sought out insurgents during a daylight search-and-destroy mission in Baghdad, the military told his family Monday.
After firing all his ammunition and buying time for his buddies to scramble to safety, relatives said, Richardson fell into a canal while running for cover and drowned. Army officials told the family he suffered a head wound but they didn't know if that was from enemy fire or from falling into the concrete-lined waterway.
Richardson's actions helped save the lives of two men who were caught in the open when the enemy struck with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, his father, William Richardson, learned later.
The two squad-mates jumped into the swift-moving canal and were pulled to safety. Richardson dived in as well, but weighed down by his gear and possible combat injuries, never resurfaced. His body was recovered hours later.
Richardson's first name was William, but everybody knew him by his middle name, Dean. He was born July 28, 1981, and grew up in Moreno Valley, graduating from Moreno Valley High School in 2000. He grappled on the Vikings wrestling squad and played linebacker on the football team.
He was a small guy, maybe 150 or 160 pounds, but a ferocious tackler, said former teammate Dan Ganczak. He earned Player of the Week honors in October 1999 and bench-pressed 385 pounds.
"He was an animal," said Ganczak, 24, who played left guard on the football team. "He filled the other team with terror. I'm 6-foot, 3-inches tall and 300 pounds, but his heart was much bigger than mine."
After graduation, Richardson went to work with his brother, Greg, as an electrician, earning good money and traveling throughout California working on commercial jobs.
But Sept. 11 changed everything, Greg Richardson said.
"It lit a fire in his soul," he said. "He couldn't stop talking about it. He wanted to make things right."
His mother, Karen Richardson, 50, said Richardson spoke to a recruiter four days after the attack.
Richardson enlisted in February 2002 and underwent infantry and airborne training. He married his childhood sweetheart, Teara, after boot camp. He was stationed at Fort Riley, Kan. During his first tour in Iraq, Richardson fought alongside members of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions right into the heart of Baghdad.
In April 2004, Richardson returned home after 14 months in combat. He went back to being a kid, snowboarding, kneeboarding and water skiing. He told family members he didn't really understand all the reasons for the war but was determined to do the best he could.
The family was enjoying a vacation at Lake Havasu when an Army detail tracked them down at a campsite about 2 p.m. Monday with the word Dean Richardson died in combat.
The Army told Richardson's family he will receive the Purple Heart for battlefield wounds and the Bronze Star, which is awarded for combat valor.
Funeral services were pending late Wednesday. Richardson will be interred at Riverside National Cemetery. Besides his wife, parents and older brother, Richardson is survived by a sister, April, 20, and a brother, Kyle, 15.
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||Thursday, Apr. 14, 2005 at 11:14 AM
|Task Force Baghdad Pays Last Respects to Warrior
||Thursday, Apr. 14, 2005 at 11:19 AM
|Love ya Dean
||Friday, Apr. 15, 2005 at 6:47 PM
||Tuesday, Apr. 19, 2005 at 12:19 PM
|Gone but Not Forgotten
||Friday, Jan. 04, 2013 at 1:48 PM