Sgt. Richard L. Ford

Courant Staff Writer

Army Sgt. Richard L. Ford, a decorated soldier from East Hartford, died Feb. 20, 2007 on his third deployment to Iraq of wounds suffered from small arms fire near Baghdad. He was 40 years old.

A decorated soldier from East Hartford has died of wounds suffered in combat in Iraq, the Defense Department said Thursday.

Sgt. Richard L. Ford, 40, was on his third deployment to the country. He died Tuesday of wounds from small arms fire near Baghdad. He became the 37th person with Connecticut ties to die in Iraq or Afghanistan since March 2002.

"I am extremely proud of my dad's service to our country," his son Michael Ryan Patrick, of Bridgeport, said in a statement. "My dad is my greatest hero."

Ford was a rifleman assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He had served previous tours in Iraq, from December 2004 to March 2005, and from September to December 2005, the Defense Department said.

Ford was the recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and received an Army Commendation Medal with a "V" device for Valor in February 2005, for his role in an incident in Mosul.

A specialist at the time, he helped save members of his crew while under enemy fire, according to the Defense Department.

"As both a fatherly and brotherly figure, he was looked up to by many of his fellow paratroopers," said Lt. Col. Richard Kim, battalion commander, in a statement. "He contributed immensely to the readiness of the organization and will be sorely missed."

Ford joined the Army National Guard in 1995 and was placed on active duty in June 2004.

He is survived by his son; his father, Mason Ford, of Colchester; a sister, Vanessa Migliore, of East Hartford; and a brother, Matthew O'Connor, of Lebanon.

A memorial service will be held for him by his unit in Iraq. Funeral arrangements by the family have not been finalized.

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