Justin Wayne Linden

June 26, 1981 - June 4, 2004


While Amanda's needs are the cause and focus of this journey, I would like to dedicate this site to Army National Guard Specialist Justin Wayne Linden, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on June 4th in Iraq, along with fellow Oregon Guardsmen Sgt. Justin Eyerly and 1st Lt. Erik McCrae, after leaving his Humvee to give cover to a convoy.

By chance (or Providence), on the second night of my train trip, I was seated for dinner with Justin's parents, Wayne and Laurie, and his sister Stephanie.  At first, they seemed a bit uncomfortable to be seated with a total stranger (especially an oddball like me!).  But the conversation warmed quickly.  Stephanie worked at the Trek bicycle factory as a wheel builder before returning to school, so we had plenty to talk about.

Then, Stephanie dropped the bomb, telling me that they were on their way from their homes in Wisconsin to her brother's funeral in Portland, and the circumstances surrounding his death.  When I started breathing again, they told me a little about Justin.

Over the next two days, I spent most of my time with them.  They made me feel like a part of their family.  Wayne, a Vietnam Veteran, shared stories about Justin, who was not only his son, but also his best friend.  It was sheer pleasure to share Laurie's first sight of the Rocky Mountains.  She was absolutely ecstatic about the views.  (And they were awesome!)  Stephanie told me all about her son Miles and husband Alex, who stayed home  (Miles, a big Scooby-Doo fan, is four years old-  too young to handle the ordeal); and about her experiences with Trek.

They are a remarkable family.  Their strength, sincerity, and pleasant humor were clearly visible through their grief.  By the time we got to Portland, I was completely attached to them.  Justin's wife Sarah and her Mom came to the station to pick them up, and it was really hard to watch them go.

I delayed the start of my ride until Tuesday morning, June 15th, so I could attend Justin's funeral in Portland on Monday.  The huge church was packed, the ceremony incredibly moving.  There was more Brass in the room than in a candlestick factory.

To the right of the stage was the "Fallen Soldier" display-  a standing rifle, it's bayonet driven into a sandbag, hemet propped on top, dog-tags draped over the front, boots at the base.  An empty saddle sat on a stand next to the display.  Trust me-  once you've seen a "Fallen Soldier" display, you'll never forget it.

The National Anthem and several other musical tributes were ably performed by Justin's cousins, aunt, and grandparents; clearly a very talented musical family.  The Governor of Oregon spoke, as did the Commanding General of the Oregon National Guard.

A multi-media presentation offered many pictures of Justin-  from birth to his service in Iraq.  Justin's wife Sarah spoke (with unbelievable strength) about his sense of humor, and his ability to give comfort and support to family and friends in time of need.

Stephanie read letters to Justin from Wayne and Laurie, as well as her own.  (No dry eyes-  not even the Brass.)  The Chaplain brought all military personnel onto the stage for the closing song.  There were well over one hundred people on the stage (even one from the Navy!), including at least a dozen active and retired Generals.  The Army knows how to honor it's fallen heroes, that's for sure.

It was a long drive back to Astoria alone, to start my ride the next morning.




Justin Linden and his wife Sarah

Laurie, Stephanie, and Wayne