Friday, June 04, 2004

On a raid last fall in Iraq, U.S. Army Capt. Stacey Corn's squad came under intense attack while preparing to invade a house believed to be the headquarters of enemy combatants.

Corn was shot -- and likely would have been killed, he said, if it weren't for the quick response and counter-fire provided by one of his fellow servicemen, Lt. Ken Ballard.

"He was there for me and my boys," Corn said. "He was the first to be there for anything or anyone."

Corn had to tell his squad Monday that Ballard had been killed in action.

Ballard, a Mountain View man whose grandparents live in Newark, became the latest Bay Area soldier killed in combat when he was shot in a small-arms gunfight at 11:59 p.m. Sunday in the An-Najaf area of Iraq.

"A lot of my soldiers said the same thing to me," said Corn, now stationed in Louisiana. "They said, 'We should have been there for him, because he was there for us.'"

Ballard's father, who lives in Hayward, also received the news Monday, which was Memorial Day -- already special in the Ballard family because of its long history of military service. Four generations of Ballards have served since World War I.

"I always had respect for (Memorial Day) and how it should be observed," Tom Ballard said. "The day will carry an even deeper meaning for me now."

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