Army 1st Lt. Kenneth Michael Ballard
Died May 30, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom
26, of Mountain View, Calif.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division, from Friedberg, Germany; killed May 30 during a firefight with insurgents in Najaf, Iraq.
Calif. mother remembers son killed in Iraq
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — A 26-year-old Army officer had been scheduled to return from Iraq eight days before he was killed by small arms fire, his single mother said of her only child.
Lt. Ken Ballard, a tank platoon leader, died May 30 in Najaf, where U.S. troops had halted offensive operations Thursday as peace talks continued with Shiite militia leaders, said Karen Meredith, Ballard’s mother.
In one of the last e-mails Meredith received from Iraq, her son wrote, “Don’t worry about us. We know what we’re doing.”
Ballard originally had been scheduled to return from a little more than a year in Iraq on May 22, but Meredith said she rescheduled his “welcome home” party to Labor Day weekend after his stay was extended. The timing of his death made the news even more painful, she said.
Mother and son chatted, online or over the telephone, almost every day. The pair last talked Thursday, “a bonus day” because Meredith received both a letter and a phone call from her son.
“He was an only child. I was a single mom. He knew how important it was for me to hear from him,” Meredith said.
In his absence, Meredith began posting his photos from Iraq on her Web site, to keep friends and family updated about his daily activities and to remind the world “there are real people over there.” Ballard’s favorite picture shows him pointing to the fist-sized hole left by the sixth rocket-propelled grenade to hit his tank.
“It was important that people see his smiling face and for people to know what was going on in Iraq, that it wasn’t just a news story,” she said.
Born in Mountain View, Ballard joined the Army after graduating from Mountain View High in 1995. He served in Bosnia and Macedonia before taking a leave to attend Middle Tennessee State University, where he earned a degree in international relations in 2002.
Ballard planned to serve in the Army for two more years, then to earn a master’s degree and work in Washington, D.C. Now, Meredith said, “it’s going to be a different kind of welcome home.”