Saturday, March 17, 2007

Douglas C. Stone dies in 'non-combat-related incident'

Army Sgt. 1st Class Douglas C. Stone of Taylorsville died in Iraq during a noncombat-related incident Sunday, Army officials said Tuesday.

"That incident is still under investigation," said Army spokesman Claude McKinney of the Army Reserve 96th Regional Readiness Command. "A non-combat death is one that occurs while a soldier is not in direct conflict or combat. It could be anything else while they're there that would cause a death."

Before being deployed to Iraq on May 1, 2006, Stone was stationed at the 96th Regional Readiness Command's operation center at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City.

"There wasn't a unit or individual sent from our headquarters that Sgt. 1st Class Stone did not personally assist in preparing for their mobilization or deployment," said 96th commander Maj. Gen. Peter S. Cooke. He said Stone "... always went above and beyond in performing his duties and taking care of soldiers. This is a humbling loss to the Army."

Stone's family in Utah has requested that media not contact them, at least initially, McKinney said. He added that the family has also asked media to refrain from discussing possible causes of death until the investigation is complete.

Stone's parents, who are divorced, gave interviews Tuesday. His mother, Dolores Feigley of Milford, Mich., said her son decided later in life to join the military.

"I think he was the oldest in boot camp," she said on the phone. She remembered how her son drove a fuel truck for tanks during Desert Storm.

"He was a dedicated service man — he was," she said. "He took his job very seriously."

Stone was raised in Michigan, which the family lists as his home of record — it's also where he'll be buried. He graduated from Milford High School and took some college courses while in Michigan. He did not graduate from college and his mother said he "kind of floated" before deciding to join the Army.

Stone leaves behind his wife, Mary, who is originally from Petoskey, Mich. He and his wife had two sons, ages 10 and 13, who both had birthdays in June that their father planned on celebrating in person.

Stone marked his 49th birthday March 8. He was born at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, where his father, David Stone, served in the Air Force. The elder Stone retired from the Air Force Reserve as a captain.

Stone's father, who now lives in Largo, Fla., recalled over the phone how he and his son used to go fishing for bass, perch and bluegills in Michigan on Waloon Lake near Petoskey.

"He was a good kid," David Stone said. His son fit in well with the military and "seemed happy at Fort Douglas," he added.

At the time of his death, Stone's father said his son was in northern Iraq "with the Kurds." McKinney said that Stone's job while deployed was to "provide training to the Iraqis in various aspects of nation building."

Jerry Jones, a neighbor, recalled Tuesday when the Stone family moved from Michigan to Utah around the late 1990s. Jones described Stone as a friendly, good person and as a man devoted to the military and someone with an eye for detail.

"He was very particular in a lot of things that he'd done," Jones said.

Stone had a classic sports car that he took care of. "He used to love to take that out, maybe two or three times a month," Jones said.

Jones said his friend and neighbor had planned on retiring soon. Stone's father said he thought his son was within three years of retirement.

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