Soldier recalled as family-oriented, responsible

Capt. Charles E. Ridgley Jr., killed over the weekend in Afghanistan

  • Capt. Charles E. Ridgley Jr.,who was killed over the weekend in Afghanistan.
Capt. Charles E. Ridgley Jr.,who was killed over the weekend… (Handout, Baltimore Sun )
April 19, 2011|By Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

In two short weeks, Charles Edward Ridgley Jr., would have been home from Afghanistan, preparing to see his daughter walk across her high school graduation stage.

Instead, his family is readying itself for a final goodbye to the fallen Army captain, who was killed by a suicide bomber over the weekend in his first overseas assignment.

Media reports say the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack Saturday that killed Captain Ridgley and four others. A statement from Fort Richardson says a suicide bomber dressed as a soldier infiltrated the base in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

Captain Ridgley's remains were returned to Dover Air Force Base on Monday. Funeral arrangements have not been finalized.

"We were all looking forward to him being back and being done," said his cousin, Troy M. Ridgley, who lives in Forest Hill near Bel Air in Harford County. "We really didn't get to spend as much time as we all wanted with him."

Known as "Eddie" to his family, Captain Ridgley, 40, overcame a rough childhood, bouncing back and forth between relatives' homes in Baltimore, Aberdeen and Atlanta.

Inspired by his uncles' military service, he joined the Army after high school. At the time of his death, he was assigned to the 17th Combat Support Battalion, based in Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Relatives said Captain Ridgley always looked after his mother and daughter, Marissa, and looked up to his uncle Timothy V. Ridgley.

Dreama Brown, his mother, described her son as a "blessed man."

"The love that I have for him will not go away until I go away from here," Ms. Brown said in a statement. "He is a great man and a hero in my eyes."

His grandmother Lucy Campbell said that he was a serious and obedient child. He adored his uncle, who was "like a father for him."

His uncle, who lives in Raleigh, N.C., often shared stories with his nephew about his years in the Air Force, and about the benefits of joining the military. "He knew that he could get his education, a paycheck and an adventure," his uncle said.

Captain Ridgley showed an adventurous streak early on, driving all the way to Atlanta by himself when he moved in with his uncle's family at age 16. But he was also responsible, holding down two jobs and paying for his own car insurance.

"I realized right then that he had a whole lot of spunk to him," Timothy Ridgley said.

The family moved back to Baltimore about a year and a half later, and the teenager enrolled at what was then Walbrook Senior High School and joined ROTC. He graduated in 1990 and enlisted in the Army in November.

He served several years, left the military for a time and then re-enlisted. He was commissioned a quartermaster officer in January 2007 and was assigned to Fort Richardson. While there, he earned his bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in global logistics from the University of Alaska at Anchorage. Relatives said he was working on his master's degree when he was deployed to Afghanistan about a year ago.

Another uncle, Clarence Ridgley, who lives in Baltimore's Ashburton neighborhood, said Captain Ridgley was extraordinarily committed to his family and to his daughter's education. His daughter, Marissa, is graduating from high school in Alaska this year.

"He was certainly someone who had some values that you don't typically see in young people," he said.

A martial arts instructor who enjoyed mentoring the children of soldiers, Captain Ridgley was a "put up or shut up" kind of guy, Timothy Ridgley said.

"People who have never truly met a 'real man' missed an opportunity with him. He walked it like he talked it," his uncle continued said. "Most people would not go into the rough part of Baltimore, let alone a war zone. I'm proud of him, and I think the world should be, especially Baltimore, to have someone come out of there who was like them."

Ridgley is also survived by his father, Charles E. Ridgley Sr.

raven.hill@baltsun.com

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