In August of 2006, shortly before he was due to return home, Merrill native Ryan Jopek was killed in action while serving on deployment with the National Guard in Tikrit, Iraq.
Since his passing, the Merrill community has remembered its fallen native son in many ways, such as a group of volunteers rallying together to restore Jopek’s beloved 1966 Chevrolet Custom 10 pickup truck, named “Walter.”
Tuesday night, Jopek was once again remembered along with Walter, at a beer dedication at Sawmill Brewing Company.
The beer is titled “Walter Amber Ale” and was brewed by Chris Burger, who served with Jopek in the Merrill National Guard unit.
“Tonight we are releasing a new beer in memory of a pretty special guy, and a good friend of mine; Ryan Jopek,” Burger said shortly before raising a glass of the fresh brew in memory of his fallen friend.
“He would have gotten quite a kick out of this,” said Ryan’s mother Tracy. “He named his truck after the legendary running back for the Chicago Bears, Walter Payton. So to have a beer named Walter, he would have got a laugh out of it,” she added with a smile.