STOW: Crayons, candy and prayers were on U.S. Army 2nd Lt. David Edward Rylander’s mind when he spoke to his parents by phone earlier this year.
He asked John and Jackie Rylander to send crayons and candy for the children of Afghanistan and to send prayers for him, his soldiers and the Afghan people.
“He was always thinking of others,” Jackie Rylander said Tuesday.
Lt. Rylander, 23, a 2011 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, was killed May 2 in a roadside bombing in Logar province. The U.S. Department of Defense said the blast also killed Spc. Junot M. L. Cochilus, 34, of Charlotte, N.C., and wounded two others.
Rylander is the second service member from Stow and the 40th from the Akron area to die in Afghanistan or Iraq. Marine Cpl. Joseph Tomci, 21, of Stow, was killed in Iraq on Aug. 2, 2006.
Stow Mayor Sara Drew ordered flags at all schools, city buildings and the public library lowered to half-staff. She called Rylander “an exceptional young man with a promising future” and said “his loss will be felt throughout our community.”
“The city of Stow is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Lt. David Rylander in Afghanistan,” Drew said. “Our condolences go to his family and friends and we ask that the community keep the Rylander family in our thoughts and prayers.”
The prayers Rylander requested in conversations with his parents formed a huge part of his life, they said.
“At a young age, he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior,” Jackie Rylander said. The Bible verse that guided him was Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Home-schooled for 12 years, Rylander was an Eagle Scout from Troop 777 in Hudson. He planted trees at Silver Springs Park in Stow to complete his Eagle project.
Troop 777 Scoutmaster Stephen York called him an “outstanding leader, citizen and patriot” who made an impact on the world.
“He cared to make the world a better place and walk a trail that he would leave better than he found it,” York said.
Rylander also was an accomplished piano player, swimmer, avid camper, reader and, most importantly, a man of great faith, said his parents as well as friends who posted eulogies on social media outlets Facebook and Twitter.
“I love and will miss you, my friend,” a woman wrote Tuesday on his Facebook wall. “Thank you for being such a leader among your friends. Your sincere and gentlemanly character are what I will always remember about you. Thank you for being a soldier for your country as well as a soldier for the Kingdom of Christ. We could never pour out enough gratitude for your service and sacrifice. Thank you, our hero.”
The president of West Point’s Class of 2011, 2nd Lt. Joe Simon, 24, said Rylander was the first member of their class of 1,080 cadets to be killed in action.
“He was a great cadet and a great follower of God,” said Simon, originally from Canfield in Mahoning County and now stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. “He was a great officer. He was soft-spoken and enthusiastic and always wanted to learn and wanted to serve in the military.”
Rylander majored in engineering management at West Point. After his graduation May 21, he took the Basic Officers Leadership Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., from July until November, his father said.
He then was assigned to Fort Drum, N.Y., and was attached to the 10th Mountain Division as a member of the Corps of Engineers.
On Dec. 28 he was deployed overseas, arriving at his base in Afghanistan in mid-January. He became a platoon leader March 1.
Rylander and his parents spoke on the phone every two to three weeks, they said.
“No news was no news,” his mother said the family learned.
He asked for gifts to give the Afghan children as well as coffee, DVDs and other personal items for the soldiers in his platoon, she said.
Rylander’s nature was to reach out to people and bring them into the group. He once earned an award as “the best encourager,” his parents said.
“He didn’t want anybody to be left out,” Jackie Rylander said. “He was a humble servant.”
Army was his calling
Rylander loved the Army and serving his country, his parents said, and he believed serving in the Army as an officer was his calling.
“Our whole heart is that God will be glorified in this and that David will be honored and that our country will be respected and we will be thankful for what these men and women are doing for our country,” John Rylander said.
There has been an outpouring of support from many groups of Rylander’s friends, his parents said, including people who knew him from Boy Scouts, their church (Victory Life Church in Stow), the West Point and Army communities as well as friends from Stow.
“We have lost a son, but many, many people feel that they have lost someone, too,” his mother said.
“They have lost a friend, a brother in Christ,” his father said.
“A comrade in arms,” added his mother.
They said the family’s deep faith tells them they will see David again.
“This is a tough time here on earth without his presence,” John Rylander said, “but we know we will be together eternally. Our faith gets us through.”
The soldier’s parents said they know there is a price for freedom.
“Freedom is never free,” Jackie Rylander said.
“We should never take that for granted,” John Rylander said.
Lt. Rylander also is survived by three siblings: Daniel, 19, Sarah, 16, and Stephen, 15.
His calling hours will be 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at Redmon Funeral Home, 3633 Darrow Road in Stow. Funeral service will be 11 a.m. Saturday at the Chapel, 135 Fir Hill in Akron, followed by burial at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the USO, P.O. Box 96322, Washington, D.C. 20090-6322.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.