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Lowering the flag, an Albany family mourns

Riley Stephens, back row, fifth from left, is seen with his unit in Afghanistan.

Riley Stephens, back row, fifth from left, is seen with his unit in Afghanistan.

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Pete Skiba

After lowering the flag to half-staff, mourners, from left, Kristina Gieryic, Raymond Major and vehicle-repair shop owner Tom Gieryic take a last look in honor of their friend Riley Stephens, of the U.S. Army Special Forces, who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan.

ALBANY, Ga. -- After struggling with ordinances that restrict flags and other roadside signs, the Gieryic family performed a sad duty -- it lowered its two flags in honor of a flag-bearing friend killed in Afghanistan.

In the backyard tending to yard work Tom Gieryic looked up to see his daughter Kristina walking slowly to him holding the triangle-folded American flag given his family by an Army Special Forces medic.

"Dad we have to put this flag up," 18-year-old Kristina Gieryic said. "Riley is dead. We have to put up Riley's flag he wore in battle."

Stationed at Fort Bragg in March, 39-year-old Riley Stephens supported Gieryic after hearing about the problems the auto-repair shop owner had with code enforcement. It concerned the placing of a flag on the right-of-way on Dawson Road at the shop.

"He sent my dad the flag his company flew during a tour of Afghanistan," Kristina said. "He wore it in combat under his armor in the war."

Kristina stayed Facebook Friends with Stephens after his deployment. She got word of the death at her home Saturday morning.

"When I heard, I just didn't want to get out of bed," Kristina said. "It hit me and I went to tell my dad."

After raising the flag to half-staff at their home, the Gieryics drove to the repair shop. Joining them automotive technician Raymond Major set about adding "RIP Riley Stephens" under the first line on a sign that states "Fly Your Flags."

Together the three lowered the flag to its proper place to honor the fallen medic. Tom Gieryic said Stephens had recently taken the place of another fallen medic in a squad at an officer's request.

"I don't think he had to," Gieryic said, "but he did."

In a compromise with the laws governing the right-of-way Gieryic has moved the pole for the flag. He keeps it flying legally and with pride.

Comments

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 6 months ago

I saw this half-mast flag today at the corner of Dawson Road and Whispering Pines/Westgate. I thought it might be in honor of the loss of our Libya Ambassador and three others due to the inept foreign policy of the Obama/Clinton regime. However, it was apparently due to another Obama "initiative" which was to go the the "real war" which is in Afghanistan. What a Genius we have running the USA as Commander In Chief. Please help send this PIECE OF TRASH back to Chicago (or wherever He is really from...........possibly some Third World Cesspool where He really belongs as some local JuJu Man........)

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tde2749 1 year, 6 months ago

This story is about Riley Stephens. A great warrior, father and friend to many who knew him. He was on his 7th combat deployment with the U.S. Special Forces. Though he had done his duty many, MANY times over and was close to retirement, he once again volunteered to go into harm's way in Afghanistan. His life should be celebrated. Politics has NOTHING to do with this story. It's about honoring a great man. I was proud to have known him and will keep him and all the family, friends and loved ones he left behind in my prayers. R.I.P. Brother!

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iko 1 year, 6 months ago

Call Code Enforcement!!! Alert Judy "Toilet" Bowles!! It's a successful business in Albany with a . . . (gasp!) SIGN!!! They must be harassed and shut down!

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rileysfriend 1 year, 6 months ago

I love this man more than I can put into words. But I have to say, this article was ran in your paper about 2 days too soon. It was irresponsible to print information that has yet to be confirmed by the Army or DOD. The reason is has not been confirmed yet is because there is family that has not yet been officially notified of his death.

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AnotherMom 1 year, 6 months ago

I'm sorry to hear of this young man's death. I thank him & his family for his service & sacrifice. I hope & pray this war ends soon.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 6 months ago

No disrespect was meant to the fallen hero. Only disrespect for the "Commander In Chief".

When all of our ENEMIES all over the world would vote for Obama if they could....well we've got a really big problem in this country.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/01/hugo-chavez-id-vote-for-obama/

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