Pastor remembers Clinton soldier as 'a fine young man'

Pastor remembers Clinton soldier as 'a fine young man'

CLINTON – Jeremy and Jason Ridlen, like many twins, did everything together, including joining the National Guard. They went to Iraq together.

This week, they come home separately. Jason is home for Jeremy's funeral.

Mr. Ridlen was killed Sunday near Fallujah by a suicide bomber who drove a dump truck into his military convoy, according to the Illinois Army National Guard.

"I am deeply saddened by the tragic news of Specialist Ridlen's death," Brig. Gen. Randal Thomas, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, said in a press release Tuesday.

The Ridlens, 23, joined the guard's 1544th Transportation Company stationed in Paris, right out of Maroa-Forsyth High School in 1998.

Their pastor, Rev. Marlin Jaynes of the Peoples Church of God in Decatur, said Jeremy was "a very fine young man with a serious side."

But the twins also had a playful side.

"Jeremy played on the church softball team. He would have been playing next month if he had not been activated," Jaynes said.

Spc. Ridlen was a general studies major at Illinois State University and lived in Clinton, as does his sister, before he was called up.

The Ridlen family could not be reached Tuesday. Jaynes asked Tuesday that the media and well-meaning strangers keep away from the family and the funeral while the family heals.

"They're a very close family and they're hurting," he said.

He said the family was deluged with flowers and would prefer if well-wishers expressed themselves in others ways, such as donating in Spc. Ridlen's name to the church at 833 W. Pershing Road, Decatur 62526.

The funeral date has not yet been set, Jaynes said.

Spc. Ridlen's parents and grandparents belonged to the church.

Jason Ridlen, though in the same unit, was not in the convoy with his twin at the time of the explosion, Jaynes said.

You can reach Paul Wood at (217) 351-5203 or via e-mail at pwood@news-gazette.com.

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