Friday, July 30, 2010

Army Spc. Michael L. Stansbery

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Michael L. Stansbery, 21, of Mount Juliet, Tenn.

Spc. Stansbery was assigned to 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died July 30, 2010 near Kandahar, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Sgt. Kyle B. Stout.

The U.S. Army honored Spc. Michael L. Stansbery of Mt. Juliet for giving his life while living out his childhood dream of being an American soldier.

Stansbery's parents, Michael and Tammy Stansbery, accepted the Bronze Star and Purple Heart on his behalf during their son's funeral Sunday in the dimly lit gymnasium of his alma mater, Wilson Central High School. The Army presented his younger sister, Michelle, with his dog tags.

The 21-year-old Mt. Juliet soldier was killed July 30 when his patrol hit an improvised explosive device in the Kandahar province in Afghanistan.

Stansbery was a cannon crew member with the 101st Airborne. This was his second overseas deployment since joining the U.S. Army in August 2007.

Hundreds of mourners filed into the school's gymnasium where friends, family members, former teachers, coaches and fellow military personnel, retired and active duty, shared stories about Stansbery's life and bid him a final farewell.

"This is the journey he chose to set out on," said Kay Gray, who officiated the service with the Rev. Lee Stevenson.

Stansbery wanted to be a soldier as early as the first grade, when he wrote about it as part of a school project that his mother saved. In it he wrote that he wanted to fight for people who couldn't fight for themselves.

Stansbery followed in the bootsteps of his father, Michael Stansbery Sr., a combat veteran and former Marine, and his grandfather, a World War II veteran.

"The most important thing to Michael was his relationship with his family; loved his mom and dad dearly, loved his little sister more than anything in the world," family friend John Jankowich said a few days before the funeral.

On a recent visit back home, Stansbery returned to see the veterans wall near his high school. The wall is a large rock painted with an American flag and the names of all of the high school's alumni serving in the military.

"Before he went to Afghanistan, he really wanted his name painted on that rock," Jankowich said.

Stansbery enlisted in the Army immediately after graduation. During 2008-09 he was deployed to Iraq. He returned to the United States for about a year until his most recent assignment to Afghanistan in June.

Before his June deployment Stansbery sat with his father and told him how he wanted his possessions to be shared in the event of his death. He also told his father what type of funeral he wanted.

"Michael wasn't afraid of dying," Gray said.

One week before his death, Stansbery sent a letter to his mother asking her not to worry about him.

"I wish for you a peaceful sleep," he said in the letter.

Selflessness was commonplace for Stansbery, who once asked his family to send him a coffee pot, coffee and a bean grinder. Stansbery never drank coffee, but he wanted it for his fellow soldiers who missed that comfort of home.

Some of the soldier's former teachers and coaches fought back tears when they talked about Stansbery, while others cried openly as they recalled their memories of the young man. Michelle Stansbery, a junior at Mt. Juliet High, told mourners she was proud to be his sister and that he was her hero.

Family friend Jankowich said Michael Stansbery "knew all the risks inherent with what he did for a living. That was his dream. That is what he wanted to do. He never wavered from that."

His remains will be cremated and interred will full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

Army Spc. Michael L. Stansbery was killed in action on 7/30/10.

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