Army Cpl. William M. Amundson Jr.

MONTGOMERY, Texas — The mother and stepfather of a Ranger who died in Afghanistan during his third tour of duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom read a letter from the 21-year-old during his memorial service.

“We are here doing the dirty work, and we will continue that to the best we can, even if that means dying for your country,” Cpl. William M. “Bill” Amundson Jr. wrote to his family in March, before he was deployed for a mission overseas.

Michele Sanderson and her husband, Mark, read the letter to about 300 people gathered Tuesday at the memorial service to honor Amundson, who died Oct. 18.

Amundson wrote the letter before he was deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He survived the mission, then was redeployed to Afghanistan. Amundson was killed when a vehicle he was in overturned.

“What a strong and responsible young man he grew to be,” his grandfather, George W. Amundson Jr. told those gathered at Lakeside Bible Church in Montgomery. “He was and still is a hero in our eyes.”

Amundson was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based out of Fort Benning, Ga.

Mike Deans, Amundson’s cousin, said Amundson’s great-grandfather was part of the “greatest generation” that fought during World War II.

“In years to come, these young men and women fighting this global war against terrorism will only be known as the greatest generation of the 21st century,” he said.

Amundson joined the military in 2001 after graduating from Oak Ridge High School. After completing training at Fort Benning, he was later assigned to the Ranger Training Detachment, 75th Ranger Regiment. Amundson served as a 60 mm mortar gunner.

He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal. He received many more decorations before his death.

Amundson was known as “Little Bill” to the family of his biological father, William “Bill” Amundson Sr. He grew up in The Woodlands with his mother and stepfather, but spent summers with his father and grandparents in Plano.

Amundson will be buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

Father faces life without Ranger son

DALLAS — Cpl. William M. Amundson’s life was the Army. Now his father can’t imagine life without him.

“He was my purpose. This is very devastating for me, I don’t know how I’m going to get through it,” William Amundson Sr. said of his 21-year-old Ranger son, who died Tuesday in Afghanistan.

Cpl. Amundson, a mortarman assigned to 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga., was killed when the vehicle he was in rolled over, officials said.

News of his death “took the wind out of my sails,” his father said Thursday from his home in suburban Plano.

The Ranger was participating in a ground assault force infiltration in eastern Afghanistan. Amundson was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Special Operations Command said.

It was the third Ranger deployment for the native of The Woodlands, Texas. He had deployed to Afghanistan earlier this month and previously had served in Iraq.

Toughness runs in the family. The Ranger’s 62-year-old grandfather just returned from Hawaii this week after finishing an ironman triathlon.

Amundson is also survived by his mother, Michele Sanderson, of Montgomery, Texas.

“He grew up in The Woodlands with his mom and stepdad and stayed with me during the summers,” said the senior Amundson, who turned 40 last week.

“He was a good Christian boy who went to church. He had his head on straight and knew where he wanted to go and what he wanted to be,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for a better child.”

The elder Amundson, a plumber for 25 years, said his son joined the military only four days after graduating high school.

“He was very confident, very true with himself, and he loved his country for one thing,” he said.

He shared a strong bond with the son he called “Junior.” The senior Amundson also has a 5-year-old daughter and two stepchildren.

When the Ranger parachuted into Iraq, north of Baghdad, the elder Amundson said he could feel it.

“And when there was something going on in my life, he knew it in his heart, and he would call,” he said.

The last phone conversation between the two was on Sept. 29.

“He said ‘Dad, I love you, I’m worried. For the first time worried,’ ” Amundson said, but didn’t explain why.

The younger Amundson enlisted in the Army in May 2001 and completed One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning as an indirect fire infantryman. After graduating from the Basic Airborne Course there, he was assigned to the Ranger Training Detachment, 75th Ranger Regiment.

He graduated from the Ranger Indoctrination Program in November 2001 and was then assigned to 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He served there as a 60 mm mortar gunner.

His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, two Army Achievement Medals, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Award, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge and the Parachutist Badge with combat jump device. He was also awarded the German Parachutist Badge.

— Associated Press