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Army 1st Lt. Ken Ballard, 26, Mountain View; Dies in Firefight

June 06, 2004|Julie Tamaki | Times Staff Writer

Army 1st Lt. Ken Ballard was many things to his mother, Karen Meredith.

As a child, he was the fun-loving son she had raised on her own since he was 10 months old. As a young man, he was the soldier-turned-college-graduate with a thirst for history. And as her best friend, it was his e-mails and phone calls she eagerly awaited as he fought a war in a faraway land.

So devoted was Meredith to her son that she established a website -- "Lt. Ken Ballard, my hero!" -- to post pictures of him in Iraq.

Within weeks of having his tour extended, however, Ballard, 26, of Mountain View, Calif., was killed in a firefight with insurgents in Najaf.

His death May 30 has left an indescribable void in Meredith's life.

"I lost my only son," she said. "I won't grow old with him."

Ballard's father, Tom, of Hayward described his son, whom he said he saw during summer visits and occasional weekends, as "a very happy young man, very much a leader. He was well-respected by his troops."

Ken Ballard was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. He also served in Bosnia and Macedonia.

As a fourth-generation military member, he had many role models. He talked about joining the Army since he was a freshman at Mountain View High School, said his friend Tim Seyfert.

But before enlisting, Ballard spent his teen years jamming to Metallica, engaging in water fights and making fast-food runs with friends.

"If one of us didn't have money, he would say, 'Forget that. You're eating,' " Seyfert said. "He would buy us lunch and never expect anything in return."

Ballard's life took a more serious turn after high school, Meredith said. He served three years in the Army, later using a military scholarship to enroll at Middle Tennessee State University near Nashville, where he studied international relations and made the dean's list.

His wish list reflected his fascination with foreign affairs, featuring such book titles as "Cradle and Crucible: History and Faith in the Middle East" and "A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East."

After graduating from college, Ballard faced eight more years of military service, paving the way for him to serve in Iraq, where he was a tank commander. Meredith said she only realized the danger that he faced in a recent conversation in which he recounted a battle.

"I said: 'You're telling me you are on the outside of the tank when all this is going on?' He said, 'Yeah,' very casually ... like, 'You didn't know that?' I was horrified," Meredith said.

In one of his last e-mails, Ballard told his mother: "Don't worry about us. We know what we're doing."

Meredith has updated her website -- -- to honor her son.

Ballard also is survived by his maternal grandparents, Russell and Patricia Meredith of Gardnerville, Nev.; and his paternal grandparents, Woody and Floy Ballard of Newark, Calif.

A memorial service is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Mountain View Sports Pavilion, 1185 Castro St., Mountain View.

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