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In Memoriam: Sergeant 1st Class John Thomas Stone

Jared Smith, trainer at the United States Army’s Mountain Warfare School in Vermont and longtime reader, writes to me, and to everyone:

I got the breath knocked out of me in central Asia a few weeks ago: Army Medic and Mountain Soldier Tom Stone perished in a fire fight in Afghanistan as he was working to save the life of a wounded Canadian soldier. Stony was on his third tour of duty as a medic in support of our efforts to train the Afghan National Army. He was a dedicated soldier and skilled medic. His passion was to establish small clinics in remote villages to provide medicines and treatment to families and especially children. At a fit 52 years of age he had many professional options, but he felt his military duty was too important to neglect. A natural adventurer and raconteur; he is one of only three individuals to effectively walk around the world! Stony was not an iconoclast; he took great pains to maintain communication with friends and family and Pomfret, Vermont school children as he traveled and served.

His sense of the world as a big place, with room for all, was matched by the size of his heart. Stony ‘s small force of U.S., Afghan and Canadian soldiers was engaged by superior numbers in waves and held in defensive positions for 12 hours. Under fire, Stony had treated and saved one wounded soldier and immediately returned—still under fire—to save a wounded Canadian soldier in grave danger. Stony was killed as he worked as a medic over the young Canadian. They met their death together. Blood spilled as allies for perhaps the first time since World War 2. Momentous and very sad. Greater love hath no man €¦

I share this with you Joe, because in some Stephen Crane-like way, you seem to understand the soldier ‘s life, and I wish to reinforce your instinct. Tom Stone was a quiet American and a great man. He processed ability and understanding far beyond the ken of many in our fame and wealth obsessed society. I think that a man like Bill Gates represents surface tension. With Stony, it was all depth. Clearly, his life demonstrated that his compassion for his fellow man was drawn from a deep well of everlasting springs.

No, I cannot purport to understand the soldier’s life one whit, but Jared does. And it is through men like him that great lives, as that of Sergeant Tom Stone’s was, become known. Stone was the first Vermonter killed in Afghanistan. His funeral, reported on by WCAX-TV, was attended by more than 450 people.

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