Monday, July 09, 2007

Steven Stacy reported killed in Iraq

COOS BAY - Last Thursday, just after noon in the Middle East, a bullet cut through the air in Iraq and pierced the neck of 23-year-old Lance Cpl. Steven A. Stacy.

Soldiers bolted to the aid of the U.S. Marine Corps rifleman and 2003 graduate of Marshfield High School.

They rushed him to a medic.

But it was too late.

Stacy, who was shot about 6 miles northeast of Fallujah, was on his first tour of duty and had been in the theater of war for about three weeks.

Within seven hours of Stacy's death, Marines from Eugene were standing at the T.J. Shaws restaurant in downtown Coos Bay delivering the bad news to 47-year-old Dana Potts, a waitress there.

Her son was dead.

Stacy, an infantryman in the 1st Marines, 3rd Battalion, also known as the “Thundering Third,” was known to many diving enthusiasts in the Bay Area as “Scuba Steve” due to his years of employment at Sunset Sports in the Pony Village Mall.

Stacy will receive a full military burial Saturday, July 14, at Sunset Memorial Gardens.

It was Stacy's love of diving, plus confusion about what he wanted to do with his life, that ultimately led him to enlist. Dana Potts said her son hoped to scuba dive in some of the places the Marine Corps would ultimately take him - Singapore, Thailand and Kuwait.

“Scuba diving was his passion,” she said.

While he never did get a chance to scuba dive in the military, 43-year-old Chris Stevens, who was among Stacy's best friends, said his buddy did get to snorkel in some exotic spots. The two, friends since the late 1990s, kept in contact after Stacy enlisted in November of 2005.

“He always had a passion for his country and our military and he really believed in what he was fighting for,” Stevens said. “He believed in his country.”

Both Potts, and his stepfather, Robert Potts - who helped raise Stacy since about the fourth grade - said Stacy always wanted to be in the military. They were glad he joined, but nervous he chose to be a rifleman.

“He told us that was the best decision he ever made - even if he never came back from Iraq,” his mother said. “That that was the best thing in the world he ever had done.”

Her husband agreed.

“It turned him into a man,” he said.

Over the weekend, a steady stream of relatives and other visitors streamed to the Potts' home on 15th Street in Coos Bay to comfort the family and swap stories about Stacy. He had three sisters, Crystal McDonald of Coos Bay, April Smith of Eugene and 13-year-old Hallie who lives with Dana and Robert. His biological father, Stanley Stacy lives in Albany.

Like many from the South Coast, Stacy enjoyed deer hunting near Dellwood, fishing for steelhead on the East Fork of the Millicoma River and just being in the outdoors, family members said.

But it was scuba diving that he truly enjoyed. Stevens said the two often went to the Siuslaw River to gander at the crab hole. One of Stacy's favorite dive spots was outside Charleston at a place simply referred to as “No. 1.”

After high school, Stacy worked several different jobs, from an aide for the mentally and physically disabled to drywalling, to working on a 100-foot guide yacht that toured Glacier Bay in Alaska.

“He would try anything,” Robert Potts said.

Dana said her son had been training in Kuwait since early June. Sometimes he called her a few times a day, and at other times there were long periods of no communication. And then, about three weeks ago, Stacy told his mom he soon would be heading across the Kuwait-Iraqi border.

“We never heard from him again after he crossed into Iraq,” Dana Potts said. Robert recalled Stacy saying he was proud to serve, but also scared. While both he and Dana were afraid, too, they tried not to dwell on it too much.

“You can't put that in your head always,” Robert said. “You just say: ‘He will be home.'”

The last time Stacy was home was last Christmas. His mother said he was home for about 10 days. He spent most of his time with his friends and spent the holiday in Tangent with relatives.

Everyone noticed a change in him, his mother said.

“The Marine Corps really did wonders for him,” she said, noting he was socking away money to go to college and talking of transferring to the U.S. Navy to become a medic.

Jason Hayes, who worked with Stacy at Sunset Sports for about six months several years ago, said that at the time Stacy didn't seem to have any direction for his life.

“I'm 30. I could really see myself in him at that age,” Hayes said.

The two bumped into one another around Christmastime in a video store.

“I looked at him and I didn't register it was him,” Hayes said.

But Stacy came up and said hi. Hayes was impressed. Standing before him was a clean-cut, well put-together young man. He said Stacy first apologized for not having been a positive person to be around when they worked together. They talked, and Hayes saw a different young man.

“He said, ‘I really found my thing.' You could see in his eyes - he did,” Hayes said.

Stacy discussed boot camp, Hayes recalled. He talked about his military future and his desire to go to Iraq.

“It's such a sad thing to hear that happened,” Hayes said of Stacy's death.

Dana Potts said she didn't recall her son ever having a steady girlfriend, but that he had a lot of friends who were girls.

“Everybody loved Steve,” Dana said. “He had super high-respect for women. He would say that's why he doesn't have a girlfriend: ‘They all think I'm their best friend.'”

She remembers getting on him about his long gold locks of hair - a phase he went through.

“He always said: ‘The chicks dig 'em.'”

And he hoped one day to get married and have kids.

“He wanted to find that one person,” Dana said. “He always had this passion to find the right person and get married, settle down and have kids. He wanted the regular American life.”

Now his family and friends will come together to try and find a way to keep going - without him. His mother said she will miss his big smile. His friends will miss him picking up the tab, and trying to crack them up.

“He had a lot more life to live,” Robert Potts said.

From the Coos Bay World