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Originally published October 29, 2009 at 11:51 AM | Page modified October 30, 2009 at 12:56 AM

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Slain soldier from Fort Lewis, Vancouver 'wanted to make a difference'

Ian Walz, a Vancouver, Wash., man who was thrilled when Barack Obama was elected president, was killed Tuesday along with six other Fort Lewis soldiers in an improvised explosive attack in southern Afghanistan.

Columbian (Vancouver) staff writers

Ian Walz, a Vancouver, Wash., man who was thrilled when Barack Obama was elected president, was killed Tuesday along with six other Fort Lewis soldiers in an improvised explosive attack in southern Afghanistan.

An eighth Fort Lewis soldier was killed that day in a separate attack.

Wednesday night, Obama personally offered condolences to Walz's relatives at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Family members said Walz played football at Hudson's Bay High School, where he graduated in 2002, and had worked for years in the produce section of the WinCo store in Hazel Dell.

Walz, 25, was part of the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division out of Fort Lewis.

His aunt, Carla Burns of Vancouver, said Walz was deployed to Afghanistan in July, had come home on leave recently, and had been back to Afghanistan for only about 10 days.

"He was a sweet kid, always had a smile on his face," Burns said. "He would do anything for anybody to help them."

She said Walz also graduated from Clark College.

Asked why he joined the Army, Burns said, "I think this was a way to pay for college. He was very excited about going, though. He was excited that he got stationed at Fort Lewis so he could be close to home."

Burns said Walz's mother, Victoria Walz, a nurse, and other relatives were in Delaware to claim his remains.

Relatives believe Walz's body will be brought by jet to Vancouver today.

Walz's given name was Christopher, but he went by Ian.

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Friends and family members Wednesday night said Walz was a fun-loving man but also serious, with hopes to study political science at a university, possibly Washington State University Vancouver, when he returned from the fighting.

"He really wanted to be a teacher" or possibly a police officer, said Madeline DaMore, 22, his fiancée.

"A lot of people cared about him," she said.

She added: "He wanted to go to school and become something useful. He wanted to make a difference in the world."

DaMore said Walz often watched CNN and enjoyed reading history.

"He was really excited when Obama was elected president," DaMore said. "He just really agreed with his views. He always wanted to meet Obama."

"He had the most wonderful sense of humor," said a cousin, Kim Goldfinch, who grew up with him in Vancouver. "His laugh was a classic, loud."

Once when Walz was home on leave, he bought a little Army uniform for Goldfinch's son, Mason, 6. The boy, she said, "was just excited. He didn't take it off for a good week."

Goldfinch said she'd spoken with Victoria Walz, who said, "At first, she couldn't cry or anything. She was just really angry."

Walz had said several times that he wasn't afraid of going to war or dying, DaMore said.

But shortly before Walz left on his last mission, he spoke with a friend, Ayron Nassen, said another friend, Jennifer Myers, 22.

"Ayron said it was the first time he'd ever heard Ian sound scared,," Myers said.

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