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East Grand Forks family loses two military sons

EAST GRAND FORKS -- An East Grand Forks family has lost a second military son to a noncombat incident.

Marine Cpl. Ryan Pape, 23, died Thursday during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton in California, according to information received by the family.

Pape had served tours in Iraq, according to family friends.

Two Marines were dispatched Friday from Wahpeton, N.D., to deliver the news of his death to his parents, Ron and Shar Pape. No additional information on the training exercise was immediately available.

On May 18, 2005, Marine Cpl. Riley Pape, a decorated veteran of fighting in Iraq's Anbar province, was killed in a motorcycle accident, also in California. He was 22.

A third brother, Ross, who served with the Army in Iraq, is out of the military and farming with his father.

Members of the family gathered Friday at the Pape home, where through a spokesman they declined to talk about their latest loss.

Mike McNamara, who as a Marine officer served with Riley Pape in Iraq, spent several hours with the family Friday.

"These great young guys called me 'sir,' " McNamara said. "They were the most selfless and noble guys you'd ever meet."

McNamara, a Grand Forks City Council member and radio personality, had called in to his station from Iraq one day when Ron Pape called in and asked him to check on his son, Riley.

"I got to meet him, and I got to know him," he said, and they made plans to get together again when both came home. After Riley was killed, McNamara said he went to the Pape home and met Riley's parents and brother Ryan.

"Ryan told me at Riley's funeral that he wanted to join the Marines," McNamara said.

"It's just crushing ... that's the only word that fits ... just crushing that they've lost two sons."

The family's pastor, the Rev. Charles "Bud" Johnson of Bethany Lutheran Church, also was with the Pape family much of the day.

"Ryan was quiet, soft-spoken, but he was a leader," said Claudia Johnson, the pastor's wife. "He was active in church and school activities, and he was a very dedicated Marine -- patriotic, very proud to serve his country.

"He was also very proud to be a farmer," she said. "But after his brother was killed, he wanted to go into the military."

The family was "devastated" by Riley's death, she said.

"Now, two sons, both Marines, tragically killed ... I don't know how you handle that, except that this is a very strong family with a strong faith," she said. "And they have many friends who will help them through this."

Dangerous places

When he was home on leave in November 2004, Riley Pape told the Herald it was difficult to watch the heavy fighting around Falujah on TV -- though he was proud to have been part of a Marine reconnaissance unit that had gathered intelligence reports on insurgent strength and activities there.

"They are all my brothers over there, every single one of them, and watching it on the news is tough, not being there," he said.

"Iraq is a dangerous place. You have to go into every city and treat it as, 'This could be my last trip. This could be my last breath.' "

At the time, Ross was in the Army and Ryan, then 18 and a high school senior, had enlisted in the Marines and was scheduled to start boot camp as soon as he graduated.

Their father talked about having three sons in uniform.

"Sometimes it's good, and sometimes it's not so good," Ron Pape said in 2004. "It depends on where they are and what they're doing. When we had two of them in Iraq, there were some sleepless nights."