OSP Honoring our own "Gold Star Mom" for Memorial Day
This Memorial Day, OSP is proud to honor and recognize Shawna Fenison. Shawna is a Compliance Specialist with the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal. Shawna is also a “Gold Star Mom”. A “Gold Star Mom” is a mother entitled to display a gold star on a service flag, due to being the mother of a child who died during active service in the United States military during a period of war. Shawna paid the ultimate sacrifice a mother should never have to endure, but is dedicated to honoring the memory of her son PFC Ryan Hill.
Ryan, born April 26, 1986, graduated from McNary High school before joining the Army. PFC Ryan Hill served in the United States Army in the 2nd “Outlaw” Platoon in Charlie “Rock” Company. On August 4, 2006, Ryan’s unit was deployed to Kuwait and then on August 15, 2006 they were flown into Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was no strangers to combat during their deployments.
On the evening of January 19, 2007, Ryan volunteered for the dangerous mission of driving the lead M1151 UP-Armored Humvee for his platoon’s combat patrol. Their mission was to conduct a motorized combat patrol from Forward Operating Base (FOB) Apache in Adhamiyah (Northeast Baghdad), Iraq through the city streets and suburban area in order to protect the Sunni people from militias encroaching from neighboring Sadr City. The patrol established multiple static over watch positions throughout the night to prevent any militias from infiltrating the city. There was nothing special about this particular evening, in fact it was relatively quiet. We didn’t know then that it was merely the calm before the storm of dreadful attacks on January 20, 2007, which claimed the lives of 25 American Soldiers to include Ryan.
Approximately 7 minutes after midnight on January 20, 2007, Ryan’s vehicle was struck by an improvised explosives device buried under a construction site on the road and command wire detonated by an insurgent hiding in the shadows. PFC Ryan Hill was killed instantly.
On February 2, 2007, PFC Ryan Hill and his family received a military escort from the Funeral Home in Albany to the State Capitol in Salem, driven by McNary High School where Ryan graduated enroute to Peoples Church and finally to the Willamette National Cemetery in Portland. This escort involved Law Enforcement from the Oregon State Police, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Salem Police Department , Albany Police Department, Keizer Police Department and the Portland Police Bureau. At the time of Ryan’s death, Shawna was not an employee of the Oregon State Police. She joined the Oregon State Police in late 2012, but remembers fondly the impact that the Oregon State Police had on that day.
Shawna has a dedicated Facebook page to Ryan, the PFC Ryan Hill Memorial page, where friends and family are encouraged to post and share stories, photos and motivations with each other. Shawna regularly visits with Ryan’s buddies to keep his memory alive. Shawna often speaks at events representing Oregon’s Gold Star moms. Her first appearance as a Gold Star Mom was shortly after her son’s death in 2007, she spoke during a press conference covering the death of her son PFC Ryan Hill. In 2017, Shawna was the keynote speaker at the Oregon Remembers Event in Salem. From the beginning, Shawna has showed nothing but determination to use this devastating loss in a positive way whenever possible. In email sent to Shawna from her son on October 5, 20016, he stated, “I ask that you remember your freedoms and that we willingly gave ours up to protect our loved ones back home.” Shawna says, “Ryan was following his purpose and his passion serving his country and I need to keep that going.”
Whether it is this Memorial day or future days, we ask that you remember this story of PFC Ryan Hill and his “Gold Star Mom”. If you are in the Salem/Keizer area stop by and visit PFC Ryan J. Hill Memorial Park located at 6100 Keizer Station Blvd N, Keizer, Oregon 97303 that is just one of many reminders of the sacrifices made by our United States Military Members.
#HonoringAmericanMilitary #WeWillAlwaysRemember #MemorialDay