While growing up in Spring Grove, Army Cpl. Luke Runyan lived an active and happy life, his mother said.
He was killed in action on Feb. 17, 2008, by insurgents in Iraq, but he lived his 21 years before that date as a courageous and empathetic leader, said Lynette Runyan-Baker.
So it's appropriate that the bridge over Bunch Creek at Old Hanover Road in Jackson Township — near where he'd ride his bike, play as a child and get his hair cut — was named Cpl. Luke S. Runyan Memorial Bridge on Monday, she said.
"Of all the bridges to be chosen, this is the perfect one," Runyan-Baker said.
The bridge dedication comes after state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, introduced a bill in 2013 calling for five York County landmarks to be named after four local troops and one local police officer killed in action. The legislation was signed into law on May 14.
The dedications are a way to keep their memories alive, Grove said.
Memories: Although Monday's event brought up the pain of loss for Runyan-Baker, she said she keeps her grief with her because it makes her feel close to her son.
"He will never be forgotten," she said.
Runyan signed up for the Army when he was 17, Runyan-Baker said. He loved the social aspects of school but wasn't too concerned with grades; the Army forced him to have a goal — and he was good at it, she said.
He earned the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, two Bronze Stars and the Army Service Ribbon.
"He had a lot of courage," Runyan-Baker said.
West Manchester Township resident Delores Smyser, Runyan's grandmother, said the dedication ceremony brought back lots of memories.
A 2004 graduate of Spring Grove Area High School, her grandson was fun-loving and active, she said. His interests included hunting, fishing, playing sports and surfing in Cape May, N.J., Smyser said.
"He was just lots of fun," she said.
Runyan also had a caring side, Smyser said.
"If you had any sadness, he was there to comfort you," she said.
And he was humble: If he were there to see his bridge dedication, he'd likely deflect the attention and say that someone else deserved it more, Smyser said.
"He was always that way," she said.
— Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.