Poway-born Army Sgt. Clinton Keith Ruiz was mourned Saturday as “a dedicated soldier, committed to his country and his mission” as well as a loyal and caring husband and father.
A memorial service for Ruiz at Centerpoint Church in Murrieta drew hundreds of people, including his battalion commander, Col. Blas.
“He always showed that he was prepared to pay the ultimate price to defend our values, our freedom and our way of life,” Blas said.
Ruiz, 22, was killed when his unit was attacked Oct. 25 by small-arms fire in Khas Uruzgan, Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan.
Born March 14, 1990, in Poway, he was raised in Murrieta and attended local schools. He was a graduate of Murrieta Valley High School, Class of 2008.
Speakers at the services included family members, neighbors and friends.
Parker Ruiz, Clint’s brother, shared a passage from Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 on the topic “to every thing there is a season.”
Commenting on his brother’s early passing, Parker said, “I feel like this verse helps us because we don’t understand why he was taken so soon, but God has given us a tool to work through these emotions that we have. It’s where his mind was at when he left. He wanted us to set time aside for everything.”
Following a touching slide show of photos from Sgt. Ruiz life, Blas spoke about Clint’s service to country.
“Sgt. Ruiz was a dedicated soldier, committed to his country and his mission,” Blas said. “He always showed that he was prepared to pay the ultimate price to defend our values, our freedom and our way of life.”
Desiree Henshaw, a Ruiz family neighbor—with son, Daniel by her side—shared stories from their families lives. She said the Ruiz and Henshaw children were practically raised together and experienced many of the same activities, traditions and events through the years.
“He is truly a war hero, a fallen soldier, and yet he is so very much more,” Henshaw said.
She described Friday’s solemn transfer of Ruiz’s remains from the airfield at Camp Pendleton to Murrieta.
“Each freeway overpass held city fire trucks holding brotherly firemen high atop their rigs, saluting with pride our soldier Clint as he passed below,” she said.
Henshaw acknowledged the hundreds of local residents, city officials, and students who welcomed him home Friday afternoon at the conclusion of the journey.
“Tears flowed, and it was absolutely the most amazing and well-deserved patriotic tribute that again left one full of pride and completely breathless,” she said, choking back tears.
Tony Ruiz, Clint’s father, spoke about his son’s dedication.
“Our son died doing something that he truly believed in,” he said.
“Clint was a compassionate young man [who] took to heart his mission of bridging the gap between what he considered a misunderstood people in this country. . . . He believed there is a difference between people who use their faith as a weapon and people who use their faith in bringing people together.”
Watching Clint as father to 15-month-old son Caleb “was probably the most rewarding experience of my life.”
Clint’s widow, Kira, spoke of her husband’s shining example as a man, husband and father.
“He was loyal, passionate and caring and was always there for me in my times of need,” she said.
Others recalled Ruiz via Facebook postings:
Parker Ruiz: “The most incredible brother I could have ever hoped to have, and I miss him so much already. Rest in peace Clint; I’ll see you in heaven.”
Daniel Henshaw: “He was one of my best friends, and I miss him so much.”
Arianna Dobbins: “To our bravest soldier . . . God bless you, bud, we are forever grateful for your sacrifice.”
Friday evening, at the beginning of halftime at Murrieta Valley’s final regular-season football game, both Sgt. Ruiz and Sgt. Eric Williams were honored with a moment of silence for their contributions and sacrifice on behalf of all Americans.
Eric Williams was killed July 23 in Afghanistan. He was a 2002 graduate of Murrieta Valley High School.
The game’s announcer, basketball coach Steve Tarabilda, read tributes over the public address system to both fallen graduates.
Here is the text of Tarabilda’s remarks:
Sgt. Clinton Keith Ruiz gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country on October 25, 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan. Clint, as his friends knew him, was a beautiful person who was a dedicated and diligent student with a passion for history.
However, his passion for football and the San Diego Chargers was even greater. A team player and a loyal friend, Clinton graduated from MVHS in 2008. In 2009 he accepted the great responsibility of protecting the people and country he loved.
Sgt. Ruiz’s awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal (Campaign Star), Global War on Terrorism Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Parachutist Badge.
His legacy lives on in our hearts, and he is survived by his wife, Kira, and their son, Caleb, who was born in 2011.
To show our love and gratitude in honor of Clinton K. Ruiz and how he touched our lives, a trust fund has been set up for his son, Caleb Ruiz, at California Bank and Trust on Winchester Rd. in Temecula.
Any donation would be appreciated and can be sent in lieu of flowers. Sgt. Clinton Keith Ruiz is a hero and will never be forgotten. Let’s please take this moment now to honor our hero with a moment of silence.
Sgt. Ruiz will be laid to rest Wednesday, Nov. 7, at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.