Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Steven Stacy laid to rest

COOS BAY - If anyone in the crowd could fathom the emotions Dana Potts endured Saturday morning as she sat before her son's flag-draped coffin, it was Christine Dybevik.

Dybevik, who lost her son in the Iraq war in April 2004, joined more than 300 mourners on a grassy hillside at Coos Bay's Sunset Memorial Gardens to honor U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Steven A. Stacy, a 23-year-old Marshfield High School graduate killed by enemy fire on the outskirts of Fallujah on July 5.

"It's like walking through a fog," Dybevik, of Coos Bay, recalled of those intense, terrible days between hearing the news and burying her child. "You do what people tell you: 'You have to go here' - you go. 'You need to do this' - you do it. You're just numb."

Potts, whom Dybevik met for the first time last week, sat graveside under a canopy with about 20 other close relatives, including Stacy's stepfather, three sisters, grandparents, and nieces and nephews.

She only occasionally dabbed at tears while various speakers - among them Gov. Ted Kulongoski, himself a former Marine corporal - recalled the young man's broad, goofy smile, his penchant for adventure and his eagerness to serve his country.

"I would have greatly enjoyed getting to know this young man, with whom I share a love of fishing and hunting and the U.S. Marine Corps," Kulongoski said. The governor has attended all but a handful of the funerals for the 95 soldiers with Oregon ties who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002.

He mentioned Stacy's passion for scuba diving, which earned him the nickname "Scuba Steve."

"I view Steven Stacy's love for diving as a metaphor for how he embraced life and took on challenges," Kulongoski said.

Stacy's death is a staggering loss for the Marine Corps, the Coos Bay community and all of Oregon, he said, but it's especially wrenching for his immediate family.

Glancing at Potts, Kulongoski recited an excerpt from a letter Abraham Lincoln wrote to a mother who had lost sons in the Civil War: "I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so over- whelming."

Kulongoski gave Potts a Governor's Award for Excellence for her son, and two Marines presented her with the Purple Heart and the folded U.S. flag from the casket. A recording of Vince Gill's "Go Rest High on That Mountain" brought many to tears, as did a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.

At the bottom of the road leading up to the cemetery, firefighters displayed a giant American flag between two ladder trucks, and leather-clad members of several motorcycle groups - including the Oregon Veterans Motorcycle Association, the Patriot Guard Riders and Bikers for Christ - lined the drive, holding flags.

Born in Yuma, Ariz., Stacy moved to Sweet Home when he was 4 years old and to Coos Bay at 10. He had a close circle of friends, several of whom spoke Saturday when the Rev. Don Berney of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship invited anyone wishing to share memories to come to the microphone.

"I do hope something good comes from this tragic situation," said Patrick Robinson, a buddy of Stacy's since the sixth grade. "I loved him like a brother and I hope to see him up in heaven some day."

Terri Kinnaird of Coquille, whose son, Kenneth Volner, was one of Stacy's best friends, said the fallen Marine was the kind of friend you would want for your child, a boy who would strike up a conversation with her when he would call for Kenneth.

She recalled his somewhat "wandering" teen years, when he seemed unsure what path to take into adulthood, and how proud she was when he chose the military.

"Although he wasn't my son, he was our son, our community, and he'll be very missed," Kinnaird said.

Chris Stevens, who met Stacy in high school, said his sense of adventure is what he'll remember most. He recounted an outing on the east fork of the Millicoma River one February, when Stacy spotted a rope swing and immediately gave it a try.

He goaded Stevens into doing the same, and Stevens plopped in the chilly water.

Stacy graduated from Marshfield High School in 2003 and worked for several years at Sunset Sports in the Pony Village Mall before enlisting in the Marines in 2005.

A rifleman, Stacy was a member of the 1st Marines, 3rd Battalion, known as the "Thundering 3rd." He was on his first tour of duty, and was home last Christmas. He had been training in Kuwait, and had only recently crossed into Iraq.

On July 5, he was on patrol in Karma, about six miles northeast of Fallujah, when a bullet struck him in the neck.

The war "has not been an easy road," said Berney, who also officiated at the 2004 funeral of Christine Dybevik's son, 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Gary Van Leuven of Klamath Falls.

"He became a Marine, he answered the call, he served his country in the place where his country determined he was needed.

"And he paid the ultimate price."

From the Register Guard

Related Link:
Steven Stacy remembered

Related Link:
Steven Stacy reported killed in Iraq