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Stark Sailor Awarded Purple Heart, Buried at Arlington

May 29, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Seaman Earl Patton Ryals, one of the 37 sailors killed aboard the USS Stark, was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and laid to rest this morning in Arlington National Cemetery.

Ryals, 25, of Boca Raton, Fla., was the first of the Stark victims to be buried at this military cemetery on the banks of the Potomac River overlooking the capital.

The brief, somber ceremony, held under hazy skies, was attended by family members and a small group of military officials. It concluded with Ryals’ wife, Susan, receiving her husband’s Purple Heart. Taps was played by a lone buglar as seven riflemen fired a three-volley salute.

American flags were presented to Mrs. Ryals as well as to the sailor’s mother and father. Ryals’ father is a retired Navy officer, Capt. Willard Ryals.

As the ceremony ended, the wife kissed her hand and touched it to the coffin.

The families of three other victims of the attack on the Stark have so far elected to have their loved ones buried at Arlington. Two more burials were scheduled Friday and a third on Monday. Those families, however, have requested private ceremonies and, as a result, the Navy would not identify them.

Ryals and 36 other sailors were killed May 17 when an Iraqi jet fighter attacked the U.S. frigate as it was steaming on routine patrol in the Persian Gulf. Both Iraq and the United States have characterized the attack as a mistake and Iraq has formally apologized for the incident.

The bodies of 36 of the 37 victims were flown to Dover Air Force Base, Del., last Tuesday. The body of the 37th has not been found and the sailor is listed as missing and presumed dead.

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