Army Medic's Journeys End in Afghanistan
LIANE HANSEN, host:
American military officials in Afghanistan this weekend confirm that ten U.S. soldiers died Friday in a helicopter crash during operations to flush out militants hiding in remote mountains.
According to the Associated Press, the officials said the crash was not due to hostile fire.
More than 230 American military personnel have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. One of those killed was Army National Guard Sgt. First Class Tom Stone, a man with an appetite for big adventures and lasting friendships.
Steve Zind, of Vermont Public Radio, has this remembrance of the Vermont National Guard medic who was killed in a firefight in late March.
STEVE ZIND reporting:
For most of his 52 years, Stone didn't stay in one place long. He joined the Army out of high school. After that he traveled. He was a rancher and a logger. He was a diver on off-shore oil rigs, and he worked with handicapped children. He made many lifetime friends along the way.
Stone's funeral last weekend in Vermont brought them together. They talked about a man who enjoyed telling stories, but could go for hours without saying a word, whose passions included cutting firewood and reciting poetry. Longtime friend Alice Smith says the people he knew might not see Stone for long periods, but the bond between them remained.
Ms. ALICE SMITH (Friend of Stone): You know, I think he had such a close relationship with each of his friends. Even if you weren't sure when you were going to see him again, you were just certain that he was there. You know, I still feel that.
ZIND:: Each of Stone's friends has stories about his showing up unexpectedly after a long absence.
Ms. SMITH: He would appear unannounced, uninvited.
Unidentified Man: All hours of the day and night.
Ms. SMITH: Exactly. Just when you needed him the most.
Unidentified Man: Prepared to stay for five minutes if he sensed that you didn't want him around. Or stayed for five months if he thought he did.
ZIND:: In 1992, Stone stepped from his doorway and didn't return until he'd walked around the world. It took him eight years to make the 22,000-mile journey. On the way, he made many more friends.
When he returned he fell in love, but he wasn't through with the world. Stone joined the Guard and volunteered for three tours of duty in Afghanistan. He taught medical skills to Afghan army recruits and he set up a clinic and provided treatment to villagers. When he came home for a short leave, Stone visited the families of soldiers deployed overseas.
His partner, Rose Loving, knew that being with Stone meant sharing him.
Ms. ROSE LOVING (Stone's Partner): For Tom there was always time to sit down and talk or share or do something for someone. He never had an agenda that was too busy to fit people in.
ZIND:: Stone would've finished his last deployment this summer. At 52, Loving says for the first time in his life he was ready to settle down. Last spring he bought a young apple tree and planted it behind their house, which is perched on a Vermont hilltop.
Ms. LOVING: This tree doesn't even bear fruit for eight years and that was kind of his way of saying, you know, this is my home.
ZIND:: Rose Loving says later this year, she'll honor Tom Stone's wishes and scatter his ashes from Mount Washington, New England's highest peak.
For National Public Radio, I'm Steve Zind.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.