YOSEMITE, CA, USA U.S. Army SSG, HHC, 1ST BATTALION, 77TH ARMOR, SCHWEINFURT, GERMANY TA`MEEM, IRAQ 07/01/2007
Barely tall enough to see over her father’s flag-draped casket, Danielle Ruoff took the podium and spoke.
“This is a poem I wrote,” the 10-year-old began, pain showing on her tear-streaked face.
“I love my dad” she said, drawing sobs from a crowd of more than 100 people who packed First Southern Baptist Church in Cañon City.
“That’s why when he died I was so sad.”
Her father, Army Staff Sergeant Michael L. Ruoff Jr., died in Iraq on July 1 when his patrol was ambushed by insurgents outside Ramadi where he was serving with a brigade from the 1st Infantry Division. He was 31. The Ruoff family was living in Schweinfurt, Germany, where the unit was stationed, but planned to return to its adopted home in Cañon City when Michael Ruoff returned from the war. His parents, Mike and Vickie Ruoff, live in Cañon City. The homecoming Thursday was a tearful one.
“Mike laid down his life for us,” the Reverend Morgan Kerr told mourners.
Born in Ukiah, Calif., Michael Ruoff joined the Army out of high school and served in posts around the globe as a crew member on M-1 Abrams tanks. He fell in love with Colorado while assigned to Fort Carson with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, said friend Sergeant Major Malcom Parrish.
“There were none better,” Parrish said.
At home, Michael Ruoff was never far from his daughters, Grace and Danielle, and his wife of 11 years, Tracy. Dozens of pictures displayed at the service showed the four together, always smiling.
Parrish said that smile carried over to Ruoff’s life in the Army where he was known as someone others could count on.
“If you didn’t see that smile, you knew something was really wrong,” Parrish said.
Eulogists described Ruoff as an avid fisherman and a storyteller who could mesmerize with his humorous accounts of Army life. His uncle, John Ruoff, said despite the pressures of combat, he sent e-mail at least twice a week, often talking about his love for his wife.
“We are all so proud of him,” John Ruoff said.
Fort Carson’s Brigadier General James Milano said the Army will have a difficult time filling Michael Ruoff’s boots.
“He was a selfless warrior,” Milano said.
Reverend Kerr said Ruoff was also a man of deep beliefs whose faith guaranteed him a spot in the afterlife. Concluding her poem, Danielle Ruoff agreed.
“He died before I was 11,” she said, getting an embrace from Kerr after breaking down in tears. “But I know he is in heaven.”