Legacy of fallen son comes home to Santa Rosa

  • Army Lt. Andrew Powell, brought this sign to Jim Connolly, left, Saturday March 2, 2013 in Santa Rosa, back from Afghanistan, which was dedicated to his son Army Sgt. Ryan J. Connolly who was killed by a land mine June 24, 2008 in Khogyani, Afghanistan. The base was named after Connolly and was displayed at the forward operating base near where he was killed. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

A token of the legacy of his son's death in Afghanistan came home to Santa Rosa resident Jim Connolly on Saturday, almost as if he was getting back a tiny piece of his son.

Sgt. Ryan Connolly, 24, was just 14 days away from leaving the war zone when he was killed by a roadside bomb on June 24, 2008 in Nangarhar Province, near the Pakistan border.

A sign later erected above what had been known as Forward Operating Base Khogyani officially renamed the longtime Afghani fortress FOB Connolly in honor of the young medic.

That smudged Plexiglas sign — dirt still lodged around the corner mounting bolts — was delivered to Connolly on Saturday by an Army lieutenant who served as executive officer of the base last year.

"I don't really have anything from when he was there," Jim Connolly said afterward, "so this is at least a part of him.

"I probably won't clean it," he added. "It's got that Afghan dirt."

Lt. Andrew "Red" Powell also brought with him an American flag that, on the day the sign was brought down, flew above the base in sight of the Tora Bora hills, where Osama Bin Laden and his faithful once hid.

"It's an honor," the soldier said, "for me to be able to perform this for you guys."

The photos, medals and flags Connolly and his wife, Cindi Connolly, have collected in recent years fill a small area of their living room in Santa Rosa's St. Francis area.

In his den hangs a framed photograph of several soldiers at the base entrance — the sign emblazoned with his son's named clearly visible through the razor wire above the reinforced walls.

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