February 13, 2016
“Either way it’s a baptism by fire ... or chilly water. We were tested in Baghdad and we were tested in the Willamette,” Riley said, laughing. “When that water hit me, it was a shock.”Riley King splashed into the chilly Willamette River Saturday morning with a little hesitation after the first blast of water sent shivers down his spine.
But the 71-year-old Vietnam and Iraq war veteran — dressed in patriotic white socks, red shorts and a blue tank-top — had to finish the mission. So he made sure to swim out to the markers at the seventh annual Corvallis Polar Plunge. Then he dunked his head for good measure and came up smiling. And while the Corvallis man could’ve spent another few minutes in the water, he heard the voice of a man with whom he served in the Iraq war.
“Get over here,” shouted Capt. Dan Hendrickson with the Corvallis Police Department.
With King slow to emerge from the water, Hendrickson went back and threw an arm around the shoulder of his old Army buddy. The two served together for two years in the sweltering heat of Baghdad more than a decade ago, Hendrickson a lieutenant colonel and King as a sergeant. When asked afterward if the duo preferred the 47-degree Willamette River or the 100-plus degree heat of the Iraqi desert, Riley let out a big laugh.
The pair joined hundreds of other participants on 50-plus teams Saturday and helped raise more than $35,000 for Special Olympics Oregon, which celebrates its 41st anniversary this year. The organization provides year-round sports training for more than 10,000 participants with intellectual disabilities.
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