WASHINGTON—Representative Scott Franklin (FL-15) introduced a bill to rename a Lakeland, Florida post office after Corporal Ronald Payne Jr., a Marine who gave his life in service to his country in Afghanistan.

Ronald Payne, Jr. was born on December 31st, 1980 in Lakeland.  After graduating from Mulberry High School in 1999, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was deployed with the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance battalion to Iraq in 2003 where he and his unit participated in the initial invasion of the country. Soon after, he volunteered for deployment to Afghanistan, as he did not want his men to go to war without experienced combat leaders. On May 7th, 2004, Ron’s team came under fire while on a mission in Tawara, Afghanistan. Ron was tragically killed during the firefight, making him the first Marine killed in ground combat in Tawara. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for saving the life of Staff Sgt. Jason Thompson, who was surrounded after being wounded during the exchange.

Ron was brought home to Lakeland where he was given a hero’s welcome and was buried with full military honors at Oakhill Cemetery. At 6’7” tall, Ron’s fellow Marines referred to him as a “gentle giant” for his love for children. He would often give toys to children while on deployment. He was a man of deep faith who started a bible study for his men while deployed, which led to two of his Marines accepting Christ. Four of Ron’s brothers in arms would name their first-born sons after him. His legacy also lives on through the Corporal Ron Payne Family Center in Pennsylvania, which his sister, Rachel Ascione, started to help military families who have a loved one suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Ron Payne was a shining example of the best America has to offer,” said Rep. Franklin. “While he was taken from this world far too soon, the impact of his selfless service on our country and on those who knew him continues to this day. I am privileged to introduce this bill naming a post office in his honor, so that current and future generations can see his name and learn of his sacrifice in defense of our liberty.”

The full text of the bill can be seen here.