Saturday, May 30, 2009

Army Spc. Samuel D. Stone

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Samuel D. Stone, 20, of Port Orchard, Wash.

Spc. Stone was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, Bremerton, Wash.; died May 30, 2009 in Tallil, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a noncombat related vehicle rollover.

The News Tribune -- On the last night of his two-week leave from Iraq, Spc. Samuel D. Stone canceled his plans and rushed to the hospital when his sister broke her ankle.

It was a simple act of kindness, but one that family members said exemplified the Washington National Guard soldier’s generous and caring personality.

“You gave life and those around you everything you had,” said his brother-in-law, Svend Sorensen, at Stone’s funeral Wednesday in Port Orchard.

Stone, who would have turned 21 Wednesday, was killed May 30 when his armored vehicle rolled during a convoy security mission in Iraq. Stone was only two months from finishing his yearlong deployment with the 81st Brigade Combat Team. He belonged to the 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment.

Stone is the first casualty in the brigade since its 3,500 soldiers deployed to Iraq last October and the first Washington Guardsman killed in a combat zone since April 2005.

The emotional service at First Lutheran Church drew a standing-room-only crowd of several hundred. The Patriot Guard Riders, a biker group that attends funerals of fallen service members, flanked the church with American flags. Inside, family members and friends sat beside soldiers, sailors and airmen.

On the altar were a folded American flag, a battle cross and a poster of Stone wearing his cavalry Stetson and a serious look.

But those who eulogized Stone remembered him as a kind man with a sense of humor who enlisted because he wanted to serve his nation.

“Sam would laugh and laugh often,” said the Rev. Angela Ying, one of two ministers at the funeral. “His laugh was contagious.”

Stone, who trained as a helicopter mechanic and had been assigned to the Washington National Guard’s aviation unit, volunteered for the Iraq tour. Like much of the 81st Brigade, his deployment was spent primarily guarding supply convoys of contractor trucks as they drove between American bases.

He was in the gunner’s hatch of an M1117 Armored Security Vehicle on a convoy from Al Taqaddum in central Iraq to Tallil in the southeast when it rolled. The incident wasn’t combat-related; one other soldier was injured.

“His fellow soldiers would comment that no matter what the task was, he was always there,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Jay, the top enlisted soldier in Stone’s squadron.

The funeral included hymns, readings and a video tribute. Brig. Gen. Gordon Toney, the commander of the Washington Army National Guard, awarded Stone five medals posthumously. An honor guard fired a rifle salute, taps was played and an American flag was presented to Stone’s mother.

A teary-eyed Gov. Chris Gregoire, in her role as commander in chief of the Washington National Guard, presented the family with a folded state flag.

Kevin Brooker, Stone’s first sergeant, stood at attention after the service concluded.

He was home in Moses Lake on leave when he heard the news. He spent the past 10 days with the family, including escorting Stone’s body off the plane at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Brooker is typically quick with a joke. Not Wednesday afternoon.

“He was one of the good ones,” Brooker said.

Stone is survived by his mother and father, a sister and two brothers.

Army Spc. Samuel D. Stone was killed in action on 5/30/09.



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