Slain sergeant wanted to help others
OBITUARY: His mother and friends remember the National Guardsman as "real compassionate."
10:00 PM PDT on Wednesday, May 16, 2007
By MELISSA EISELEIN
Friends and family described Sgt. Rhys W. Klasno as a mature, fun-loving and caring young man who was always smiling and wanted to help people.
Helping others, they said, is why he studied to be an emergency medical technician, and it's why he joined the National Guard in 2004, shortly after graduating from high school.
"He was a real compassionate guy," said Sgt. Klasno's mother, Lynn Jardinico, of Moreno Valley. "He was the most awesome kid in the world."
Sgt. Klasno, 20, of Riverside, was killed Sunday in Iraq after an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. The 2004 Woodcrest Christian High School graduate is survived by his wife, Stephanie, of Riverside, and an unborn child that is due the first week of August, Jardinico said.
Sgt. Klasno originally was assigned to the Joint Forces Training Base at Los Alamitos. In April 2006, he was reassigned to the 1114th Transportation Company based in Bakersfield before going to Fort Bliss, Texas, in July for his deployment to Iraq. He was a heavy-vehicle driver. Sgt. Klasno was expected to return home in July, said Jardinico, whose front yard is decorated with an American flag and yellow ribbons.
"We were hoping he was going to make it home in time for the baby," Jardinico said.
Although Sgt. Klasno never worked as an emergency medical technician before his deployment, he used the skills he learned at Riverside City College while helping a fellow soldier, said Sgt. Peter Gago, rear-detachment commander at Bakersfield National Guard Armory.
"One time we had a soldier that was having back spasms, and I had to take the soldier to the hospital. Rhys went with us, and he was talking to the soldier, making sure she was comforted. He was calm. He really helped that soldier to maintain and not panic," Gago recounted.
Jardinico holds no bitterness against the military for her son's death. She said the military was one of the best things that ever happened to him.
"The military made all the difference in the world. He came from boot camp a man," Jardinico said.
Longtime friend Bryan Dean, who also enrolled in emergency technician classes, also noticed a change in Sgt. Klasno.
"He was a big goofball at heart. He was always cracking jokes. He was out to have a good time," Dean said by phone. "When he came back (from basic training) he had a mind change and a high respect for life and what he was doing."
Sgt. Klasno kept in touch with friends and family through an instant messaging system on the Internet. He joked with his mother in the messages and told her that he was worried about his wife and looking forward to coming home for his child's birth. When he chatted online with Dean, he encouraged his friend to continue his medical studies.
"I'll never forget the last time I talked to him online. He said, 'I love you. Go save lives.' " Dean said.
Reach Melissa Eiselein at 951-567-2409 or meiselein@PE.com