RIVERSIDE, CA, USA U.S. Army SGT, 1114TH TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, BAKERSFIELD, CA AL ASAD, IRAQ 05/13/2007
A couple of months after his last visit home from Iraq, Rhys W. Klasno phoned his parents in Moreno Valley with the exciting news: His wife, Stephanie, was pregnant with their first child.
Soon, his wife was sending him recordings of the baby’s heartbeat over the Internet. And eventually a 3-D ultrasound image.
Klasno, a 20-year-old heavy-equipment driver for the California Army National Guard’s 1114th Transportation Company in Bakersfield, was thrilled that he was going to be able to return home to Riverside in time for his daughter’s birth in early August.
On May 13, however, he was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Haditha, northwest of Baghdad.
“He went off to do what his country asked him to do,” Klasno’s father, Michael, said of his son, a devout Christian who led a Bible study group for troops in Iraq.
He said his son never felt conflicted about serving there. “He told me, ‘This is what the country needs and this is what God is telling me to do.’ “
Klasno, the 24th California National Guardsman to be killed in action since the Sept. 11 attacks, was posthumously promoted from specialist to sergeant. In addition to his wife and father, he is survived by his mother, Lynn Jardinico of Moreno Valley.
Klasno was nothing if not decisive, his father said. Especially when it came to his wife.
He met Stephanie Ann Griffith when they were freshmen at Woodcrest Christian High School in Riverside. They were married in October 2005, the year after Klasno enlisted in the National Guard.
“He stopped looking at all the other girls,” his father said. “It was, ‘I found the one I want.’ That is how he was. He didn’t mess around.”
Others who knew Klasno recalled that self-assurance fondly. A neighbor, Jodi Torske, remembers Klasno as the kid on the block her kids and every other kid wanted to be like — and liked by.
“Every summer the boys would change what activity they were into,” she said. There was biking, then skateboarding, and a stint of rollerblading.
“It was whatever activity Rhys was into….,” she said. “My kids loved him. He was the life of the party. Without him, the neighborhood wouldn’t have been the same.”
Anita Mesa, another parent who knew Klasno, said her son “always felt cool around Rhys and his friends.”
“There was a charm about Rhys like no other — he made you feel like you had such a personal relationship with him,” she wrote on the website Legacy.com, where dozens of people have posted notes paying tribute to Klasno.