04-14-2008 - Ryan Mayhan '99 Dies In Anbar Province (Article 10/03/2007)
Ryan Mayhan - Class of 1999 Dies In Anbar Province
Kim Hearn feared the worst in 2003 when her oldest son announced he had joined the Marine Corps.
It caught her by surprise. The war in Iraq had just begun.
"I didn't want him to join," Hearn said. "I came home from work one day and he said, 'Mom, I have two weeks to be with you.' He informed me he had enlisted in the Marines.' My job then was to just be there for him."
Hawthorne resident Ryan Mayhan emerged unscathed from his first eight-month deployment in Iraq last year, which included fighting in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah. But he would not survive his second tour, which began with his return in September.
Lance Cpl. Mayhan, a former student at Lawndale's Leuzinger High School who finished his education at Lloyde High School, died Dec 21 2006 in Anbar province in Iraq. His death certificate said he was the gunner on a Humvee that was struck by an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations in Ah Nahiyah. He was 25.
Mayhan was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Twentynine Palms.
Hearn found a message from the Marines on her answering machine that morning. A minute later, three Marines knocked at her door. She knew what had happened before anyone spoke.
"This is one of the worst Christmases I ever had," said Hearn, a Rialto resident. "I didn't even actually celebrate it. I don't know if I will ever celebrate it again."
Mayhan never told his mother why he chose to enter the military, but she knew he was dissatisfied with his job in a retail store.
"I feared for my son, and so I was against it," Hearn said. "I was proud of him. He was a man at this time and my job was to support him and his decision."
Following boot camp and training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, Mayhan was deployed to Iraq last year. He frequently called home to let his mother know he had been in the field on missions and was safe.
Mayhan returned home unharmed, but was sent back to Iraq in September for a second tour.
"In my opinion, I think he feared the second time," the mother said. "I know my children well. I heard it in his voice, and to me it seemed like he just feared it. I felt it also."
About three weeks before his death, Mayhan called his mother from a military hospital. A bomb had hit his Humvee. He was hospitalized with an injured hand and severe headaches.
"In my opinion he shouldn't have been out there," his mother said. "My son survived an explosion and within a month's time they send him back out there. I think it was too early to send my son out there like that."
But she knew her son had a job to do and he "fought to the end."
Mayhan had talked of a career in law enforcement, possibly with the U.S. Secret Service, when he returned to civilian life. The young man spoke English and Spanish and was learning Arabic.
"He was an awesome person," said his godmother, Jeanne Leftwich. "He's my hero. He's everybody's hero."
Services with military honors are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Inglewood Park Cemetery.
"I couldn't ask for a better son," his mother said. "It feels good to know that. He stood up and did what he had to do. He fought to the end."