Saturday, March 17, 2007

John S. Stephens reported killed in Iraq

LA GRANDE -- Sgt. 1st Class John S. Stephens was making plans to retire from the Army soon and try for a second career with the Central Intelligence Agency, working with computers, when he was killed this week in Iraq, his family said.

Stephens, 43, was driving a command vehicle when he was hit by an improvised explosive device, said his father, Gene Stephens, 68, of La Grande.

"It blew up on his side of the command vehicle," his father said. "He had massive chest trauma."

Stephens had served in the U.S. Army since August 1985. He took part in Operation Desert Storm, the 1991 war in Iraq, and was deployed in three later tours, including one to Bosnia.

Known to family and friends as Scott, he was born in Prineville and spent much of his life in La Grande, his family said.

He graduated from La Grande High School and attended Eastern Oregon University in La Grande for two years. He later attended Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.

"He was military 100 percent, and he believed in what he was doing," his sister, Mischelle Flowers, 39, said Friday from their parents' home in La Grande. "You won't find anybody who had anything bad to say about him."

Stephens worked as a medic and was deployed from Fort Riley, Kan.

"He was coming back after this tour to retire," his father said.

Gene Stephens said the military had taken a toll on his son's knees, and Stephens planned to have surgery on them. Then he aimed to complete a master's degree in computers. He recently had received a bachelor's degree.

When he finished his studies, he planned to apply for a job working with computers for the CIA.

"He didn't believe in doing anything halfway," his father said. "You've heard of dedicated Marines? He was a dedicated Army soldier."

Said his mother, Eva Jo Stephens, 66: "He was doing what he wanted to do, even though we didn't agree."

Both parents said they took issue with the way the war in Iraq is being prosecuted.

"It doesn't have anything to do with the Iraqi people; it has to do with oil," said his father. "He didn't agree with me."

Stephens leaves a wife in Germany, three children and two grandchildren.

From the Oregonian