Thursday, June 10, 2004
Another story of the fallen
When Army Lt. Ken Ballard and his tank crew rescued seven soldiers trapped in an ambush in an alley in Baghdad's Sadr City, he had no idea one of them was his dad's next-door neighbor in Hayward.
That neighbor, Pfc. Matt Medlock, was back in the Bay Area on Wednesday to honor his rescuer -- as a pallbearer at Ballard's funeral; the lieutenant was killed May 30 in Najaf, Iraq. . . .
"Lieutenant Ballard stayed there until we could get everyone out that night,'' Medlock said. "From then he was attached to us and accompanied us out on patrol at night. He did a great job. I wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for him."
Medlock left Iraq in April after serving a year there and is stationed at Fort Polk, La. But Ballard wasn't so fortunate. Just before he was a scheduled to come home, his Iraq tour of duty was extended.
Ballard was killed 11 days ago in a confrontation similar to the one where he rescued Medlock. While on patrol in Najaf, a unit of tanks and humvees was ambushed. Ballard's platoon moved straight at their attackers, allowing the other troops to safely retreat, Capt. Nathaniel Durant said.
Ballard was hit by small-arms fire after rescuing everyone else.
"He took a lot of pride in keeping his men alive,'' Tom Ballard said.