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Kenneth Michael Ballard was born in Rome, New York on 7.21.77. He weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces. He was the only child of Karen Meredith and Tom Ballard.
Karen & Ken left New York for a new life in California in May 1978. After living in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, they settled in Mountain View in 1981, where Ken attended school at Landels Elementary, Graham Middle School and Mountain View High School where he graduated in 1995. Ken played youth soccer & baseball. He also got his life long love of reading while living in Mountain View. Karen & Ken enjoyed attending baseball games, althogh no one knows where he got his love for the LA Dodgers.
Ken joined the Army on October 3, 1995 (I remember the day because it was the day of the OJ verdict). He was sworn in by his favorite Aunt, LTC (Ret) Cathy Patton. He attended basic training at Ft Knox, KY and became a loader on an M1-A1 Abrams tank. His first PCS base was Freidberg, Germany where he was a member of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 37th Regiment, 1st Armored Division. In early 1996 he was sent to Brcko, Bosnia for several months. Then it was back to Germany and then to Macedonia for UN Peacekeeping duties.
While Ken was in Europe, he loved to travel extensively, and he did just that! He traveled to France, Austria, Spain, Greece and all over Germany. During this time, he pursued and won the Gold to Green Army ROTC Scholarship. He attended Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN. He was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Ken received his jump wings at Ft Stewart in the summer of 2000. Ken was commissioned as a 2nd Lt on 5.10.02. His favorite Aunt Cathy swore him in that day, too. His maternal grandfather, LTC (Ret) Russ Meredith, his father Tom and his mom also participated in that enlistment ceremony. Ken graduated from MTSU the next day on 5.11.02 with a Bachelors of Science, and a major in International Relations and minors in History and Economics.
After graduation he completed some advanced training for the Army at Ft Lewis and Ft Hood. He completed Officer's Advanced Basic training at Ft Knox in February 2003. His first assignment as an Armor officer was back to 2nd Battalion, 37th Regiment, 1st Armored Division. Upon arrival in Germany, his unit prepared for deployment to Iraq. They left for Kuwait on 5.12.03 and when the tanks were offloaded and prepared for battle, the march to Baghdad began at the end of May 2003.
Ken was given his own platoon, 2nd Platoon, part of the Crusaders of Charlie Company in the summer of 2003. He felt a tremendous responsibility in keeping his guys safe from harm. Life was tough in Iraq, with sandstorms and the temperature reaching over 135 degrees outside (and 165 degrees in the tanks!), to say nothing of the constant battles they fought. I never complained about how hot it was or that I was having a bad day while Ken was in Iraq. Nothing in my world could have been as tough as it was for the guys & gals over there. Many of Ken's friends and family participated in sending letters & CARE packages to Ken and his guys. I know I felt that I was contributing to their well-being and sending some of life's comforts their way.
On 04.03.04, the battalion turned in their weapons and were preparing to march out of Baghdad the next week. Ken had expected to be back in Germany by the end of April, 2004. We had planned his Welcome Home party in Mountain View on 5.22.04. All of that changed on 04.04.04 when battles broke out all over Baghdad. 2-37 lost one soldier that day, Sgt Mike Mitchell, of Atascadero, CA On 4.15.04 we were notified that 20,000 soldiers from 1st Armored Division were operationally extended for 120 days. The families of 2-37 were devastated at the thought of having to deal with 3 more months of deployment. Ken and his guys maintained a good attitude, at least to the families. They felt that their mission was not complete and they would be able to leave when it was. In mid April, the battalion moved south to Al Kut and An Najaf. The were reunited at Camps Baker and Golf. They had to spend several days/ weeks sleeping outside until living facilities could be upgraded for them. Every single day in May they were engaged in battle, often for several hours at a time. I was fortunate to be able to communicate frequently with Ken either by instant message or by phone and he was good about keeping in touch.
Ken called me on 5.27.04 for what would be the last time we spoke. We talked for about 40 minutes about what his plans were when he returned home for his month long vacation to Washington, DC, California and Tennessee. I asked him to pick up some prayer beads for some of my friends- he teased me and said he would pick up some burkas instead. He knew that wouldn't go over well with his mom or her friends! ;-) As we always did, we told each other "I love you". Ken knew how much he was loved and respected and I knew the same from him. If I had a chance to talk to him today, there would be no words that need be spoken, because we always said it all. I just want to hear his voice one more time.
At 8:53 a.m. on 5.31.04, I received the phone call that would change my life. Ken was killed by small arms fire in Najaf, Iraq at 11:55 p.m. 5.30.04 .
Spc Nick Zimmer of Columbus, Ohio was also killed that night in Kufa.