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'Rest easy, my hero': Marine's life remembered at funeral

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips<br> Lance Cpl. Joseph Ryan Giese's mother Connie Wascovich, center and sisters Jennifer Madden, left, and Alison Leopard weep as the Purple Heart commendation is read during his funeral service at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton on Saturday. Giese, 24, of Winder died Jan. 7 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Lance Cpl. Joseph Ryan Giese's mother Connie Wascovich, center and sisters Jennifer Madden, left, and Alison Leopard weep as the Purple Heart commendation is read during his funeral service at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton on Saturday. Giese, 24, of Winder died Jan. 7 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

LAWRENCEVILLE — Ryan Giese took his first step home in the baptismal of First Christian Church of Atlanta, where his grandfather served as pastor for many years.

“We felt it was fitting to honor him here, now that he has taken his final step home,” Alison Leopard said at her brother’s funeral Saturday.

Giese, a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, died Jan. 7 while conducting combat operations in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. He was 24.

Family, friends and fellow Marines packed the Tucker church, where Giese’s life was celebrated before he was buried with full military honors at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton.

Leopard said she wanted everyone to remember how much Giese loved his wife and his family.

“Ryan even had ‘Family is forever’ tattooed across his chest,” Leopard said. “He was the kind of man any woman would love to have as a husband and Brittany was blessed to have as hers. ... I pray my son will grow up to be the man Ryan became.

“Rest easy, my hero. We love you.”

Giese’s wife, Brittany, tearfully read a letter she wrote to her “most precious friend,” soulmate and husband of nearly a year.

Brittany Allum Giese, a Grayson High School graduate, and Giese, who attended Central Gwinnett High before moving to Las Vegas where he completed high school, met two years ago in a hair salon. Even though Brittany told him she didn’t do military cuts, Giese insisted she cut his hair — and she botched the cut. Giese still pursued a relationship with her.

“I’m so glad I messed up your hair that day,” Brittany said. “We had more love than most people will ever even get to experience.”

Giese’s father, Larry, remembered him as a dedicated Marine who wanted to serve as a “grunt” because someone had to do it.

Connie Wascovich, Giese’s mother, said her son was proud of his service.

“The proudest day of his life was when he graduated from Parris Island,” she said.

Giese was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. His awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Purple Heart.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to either the Fisher House Foundation at www.fisherhouse.org or the USO at www.uso.org.

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