Kristofor T. Stonesifer
Specialist, United States Army
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 530-10
DOD ANNOUNCES NAMES OF SERVICEMEMBERS KILLED IN HELICOPTER ACCIDENT
The Department of Defense announced today the names of two servicemembers killed in Friday's helicopter crash in Pakistan. Killed were Specialist Jonn J. Edmunds, 20, of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Private First Class Kristofor T. Stonesifer, 28, of Missoula, Montana.
The two Army Rangers were passengers in a Blackhawk helicopter that crashed while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Hostile fire has been ruled out as a cause of the crash, which remains under investigation.
General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered his condolences to the families of those killed.
"They and all who are participating in Operation Enduring Freedom are heroes. They put their lives on the line on behalf of freedom and on behalf of America, and they do it each and every day. I'm so very proud of them and their comrades in arms," he said.
"As the president has said," added Myers, "they
did not die in vain."
He was fiercely proud to be in the Army Rangers and always sought a challenge.
In fact, his sense of adventure was what led Kris Stonesifer, 28, to quit ROTC in 2000 because it wasn't hard enough for him. So he enlisted in the Army and joined the Rangers.
It was with the 75th Ranger Regiment, based in Fort Benning, Georgia, that Stonesifer, along with another young soldier, died on October 19, 2001, when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Pakistan.
"He was an adventurer," his father's fiancée, Dr. Roberta Diamond, told his hometown paper, The Intelligencer of Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
The chopper was preparing for search-and-rescue duty in neighboring Afghanistan, where Rangers have led the ground war against Taliban and terrorist targets.
Stonesifer was raised in Doylestown and attended Central Bucks West High School. He moved to Missoula, Montana, several years ago with his girlfriend and best friend, according to Diamond, and went to the University of Montana. It was there that he enrolled in the ROTC program in 1999.
But Stonesifer grew restless. He left after his junior year to enlist in the Army in 2000.
"He wanted to be the best soldier in the U.S. Army, and the best soldiers in the Army are in the Ranger battalion," said Lieutenant Colonel Jim Clegg, who headed the university's ROTC program.
Those who knew Stonesifer remember a young man who thrived on mental and physical challenges. A ROTC buddy, J. C. Schneider, said that for fun and practice, Stonesifer would round up other cadets at night and hop from roof to roof of buildings in downtown Missoula. The goal was to try to survey the scene without being detected.
Clegg said Stonesifer was one of his best students — older and wiser than some of his counterparts.
"He was a very mature and focused young man,
one of my top two cadets in a very challenging year," Clegg said. "He made
better decisions than some of the younger cadets made."
WASHINGTON, October 22, 2001 - The two soldiers who died in the Friday crash of a Blackhawk helicopter in Pakistan were U.S. Army Rangers from Wyoming and Montana, the Pentagon said Sunday.
They were Specialist Jonn J. Edmunds, 20, of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Private First Class Kristofor T. Stonesifer, 28, of Missoula, Montana. They were stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia.
"They and all who are participating in Operation Enduring Freedom are heroes," said General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "They put their lives on the line on behalf of freedom and on behalf of America, and they do it each and every day.
"I'm so very proud of them and their comrades in arms," he said. "As the president said, they did not die in vain."
Stonesifer was driven by a sense of patriotism that prompted him to enroll in ROTC at the University of Montana, said Jim Clegg, who heads the university's ROTC program.
"He was a very mature individual," Clegg was quoted Sunday as saying in the Missoulian newspaper. "He always had a focus that was a little more than anybody else's." Stonesifer did not finished his training, Clegg said.
"Even though the U.M. ROTC is regarded as one of the top programs in the country that trains cadets to become lieutenants, it wasn't fast enough for him -- not as intense as he wanted -- and as a result, he enlisted in the Army," Clegg told the Missoulian.
One of Edmunds' high school instructors called the soldier "a very nice young man" who liked playing intramural sports.
"He was very competitive. He played hard," Tim Woodard, who taught Edmunds' drivers education, told The Associated Press. "His goal was to go into the military. He really wanted to do that."
Edmunds joined the Future Business Leaders of America his senior year, and graduated in 1999.
The bodies of the two Rangers, who were passengers in the Blackhawk, arrived Sunday at the European Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, an Army spokesman said.
The Pentagon did not say when their remains would be brought back to the United States.
Three other service personnel who suffered minor injuries in the crash were back on duty, the Pentagon said.
Pentagon officials said they have ruled out enemy fire as a possible cause of the crash, which remains under investigation. Myers said dust kicked up by the helicopter's rotors in landing could have led to the crash.
The search-and-rescue helicopter was playing
a support role for U.S. Special Forces on the ground in Afghanistan.
If my son Kris were here with us today, he would not understand all the fuss being made over him. He would be amused and bewildered that so much attention was being made about his life and death. He would understand and respect our need to pause and pay tribute to fallen Rangers; however, he would not define his death as a sacrifice for his country. It was just ‘another day’ for him; to do the best job he could and protect his fellow Rangers to the best of his ability.
Kris’s buddies have told me he was where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do. Long before Kris became a Ranger, he wrote in his journal ‘People take questions like “What is worth doing?” Far too superficially.’ On another occasion he wrote to his aunt disagreeing with her statement “one’s death has little to do with how one should live.” Kris countered with the argument, “If it is worth doing with only two weeks to live then it’s probably worth doing the rest of your life. One needs to find something worth doing in the face of death, which is not easily done.”
Friends have written to me saying he died for his country. This may be true, but I believe that Kris died for what he valued most, Friendship and Truth.
Kris wrote in his journal:” Love of friends, that is the noble love.” On Truth he wrote: ”I want to be happy in truth or miserable in truth. But either way I want the truth, the phenomena that comes with it, is beside the point. Truth no matter how beautiful or how ugly.”
After the terrible events of September 11th came crashing down on America, I numbly went to work that evening. There was an uneasy quiet everywhere. The parking lot was practical empty and the American flag at half-staff. My boss knew that both my sons were in the Army and inquired about them. I felt an immense pride when I responded about their service in the military. I said that my youngest son was a Ranger and would probably be one of the first to ‘go in.’ I naively did not think it possible that he could be killed.
It was not a smooth journey that took Kris from his struggles in life to his death in a foreign land. He was a little older when he finally enlisted in the Army. For ten years in my letters to friends, I would report on Kris’s return to some type of university philosophy study. This was just one of those things he did every now and then, probably to tease us into thinking he was joining the establishment. He and I had a standing joke that our favorite Star Trek characters the “Borg” were just imitating Kris’ reluctance to join society. “You will be assimilated, it is futile to resist.” What a giggle that line of dialogue would produce from both of us, as he strove to find his purpose in life.
Kris’s private educational journey took him to the Tom Brown, JR Tracker School in New Jersey, where he met members of the “Special Forces” who were attending just for fun. Tom was also affected directly by the September 11 tragic events. His brother in law was the co-pilot of the second plane to strike the World Trade Towers.
Kris read all of Tom’s books and took many of the scout classes, which were weeklong intensive training in everything related to living off the land with just your knowledge and the ability to create your own tools. He learned to make fire several different ways, build protection from the elements using existing materials and to forage for food. Kris put these skills to the test on numerous treks into the Montana wilderness. Kris toyed with the idea of going into the backcountry with just a knife and living for several years. I thought that I might not see him again if he disappeared into the wilderness, so I made him promise to call me each year on his birthday. Somehow he would have figured out how to do that.
Just before he join the ultimate establishment, the Army, he wrote in his journal: “Often times I’ll look at the bookshelves looking for some book that isn’t there, some book that has the next step. I’m sure my sub-conscience is telling me something, what I don’t know. Somehow I feel now I must swirl my past with my present, and good ideas and thoughts, good influences. I have a direction. I understand at least at this point my life, isn’t to live fully primitive in the woods. I must live in both worlds. I can do that happily there are good things in society and good things to learn, enlightenment will be to straddle both worlds.
Kris came into his own by becoming a Ranger. Thanks in part to a zany group of friends who took him into their own intensive weekend training program. Kris enjoyed these specialized ops with the guys. Of course Kris shared with his friends some much-needed skills from his own manual like: free beer maneuvers, hot tub invasions, and the great dolly launch. What was not to like about this guy who would amuse himself and his passengers by his absurd challenge to drag race the muscle cars at a stop light in his four door Saturn?
Kris was a shy and unassuming person with a smile that would light up the room, dimples that would melt a girl’s heart, and a twinkle in his eye that always gave way to one of the brightest giggles. He listened more than he spoke and enjoyed verbal debate. It did not matter which side he took. When you finally saw merit in his arguments, he would laugh and say that your opinions were right all along. You never heard him complain about anything including the MRE meals. That must stem from eating a lot of pine bark soup in the wilderness.
He was proud to be a Ranger. I asked him if he wanted me to write letter to the ‘powers that be’ over the Black Beret controversy. He said he did not care what color he wore on his head. He knew that he was a Ranger and that did not depend on any particular color. He just wanted the rest of the Army to wear it correctly!
My lifetime experience has been especially blessed by two gifts, my sons. I was lucky; my mission in life was handed to me with each child I bore. I signed a ‘mother’s contract’ at each son’s birth, it even had a clause that I was permitted to worry about them. Kris’s goal to become a Ranger was awesome to behold and really scary for a mother to accept; however, my contract also had a ‘support their decision’ clause.
Most of you have that same contract with your mothers. That is why you are here defending the Freedom that American cherishes even more after September 11th. I have to agree with Lieutenant Colonel Banach when he described the Ranger establishment to me as a National Treasure. After meeting the Rangers Kris called his friends, I have come to the conclusion that I would rather have the respect of just one Ranger than the sympathy of the entire nation.
When my son was killed, I believed that his job as a Ranger was so much more important then mine. I wanted to pick up ‘his gauntlet’ and rush to my Army Recruiter and join up. Kris would have had such a giggle over that vision. Luckily I came to my senses and realized that my original job of being a mom was my best mission. My job has been slightly modified to include being the best Grandmother I can be for Camrin, Dereck and baby Kristofor. I am blessed again to continue a mission that I love. Children are our brightest hope.
Kris wrote us a last letter. In it he said, “I don’t know if you’ll ever get an explanation of how or why I died. I’d like to think I died for something important or vital to the mission here. But I don’t think it is. It’s just a ‘gravy’ mission and I fully expect to come back without firing a shot. So if you are reading this something went horribly wrong or it was just a bad luck Murphy’s Law type fluke. All of you are in my thoughts. I’ve had a good life and I’m happy to have spent it with all of you. Love Kris”
I must respectfully disagree my son’s assessment of his mission. I agree with our President who said my son did not die in vain, even if it just means that this one mother refuses to live in fear.
Kris knew how much I enjoyed being a mom. One Christmas I received a most treasured note, he wrote: “Dear Mom, on a day when gifts are exchanged in a dazzle of mediocrity and meaninglessness. You have given me an authentic gift, by being a Mother true. That I thank you for. Love Kris."
Total strangers have written me that my son
Kris is an American hero. I prefer to describe Kris in much loftier
terms — Dear Kris, during your lifetime, you gave me an authentic gift,
by being a true loving son. That makes me very proud and very humble. I
thank you for that gift. Love Mom.
My son, Kristofor T. Stonesifer, was one of the first two soldiers to die in the war on terror. He was killed October 19, 2001 in a helicopter crash during a rescue mission near Kandahar, Afghanistan. I knew when his name was officially released that the media would be hot on our trail to find out everything they could about my son. After all, his death happened during America's first installment of ''payback'' for 9/11.
I envisioned the picture on the cover of some national news magazine: My family and I would be lined up quietly witnessing the flag-draped casket of my son being carried to a hearse by his fellow Army Rangers. Americans would see the dignity and honor afforded a hero returning home after giving his life for his country.
In other words, I almost fell victim to the American obsession with fame.
Fortunately, I had a more valuable experience, one I am reminded of whenever I hear another news report of a U.S. soldier being killed in Iraq. I learned that true grieving begins after the TV lights go out and the media move on.
After Kris' death, I knew instinctively that chaos would rain down on my family if I appeared on the early morning talk shows. I saw these live interviews as a diversion from our family's need to remain strong and focused on preparing for Kris' memorial.
One of the best
My son had volunteered three times to be halfway around the world, first to join the Army, then to become a Ranger and finally to go on this rescue mission -- while I thought he was safely sleeping in Georgia. His platoon leader told me later that he chose the best men to go that night. Kris must have been proud to be one of the few to climb aboard that Black Hawk helicopter.
But despite his bravery, Kris was a quiet and shy person who recoiled from undue attention. I'm sure he would have had such a laugh if we had done a ''crying tour'' of TV interviews -- so we didn't. Still, I was astounded as cameramen filmed our front door, mailbox, lawn and garage door.
The only time I thought I would be unable to control the cameras was at the Philadelphia airport, where my son's flag-draped casket was returned to us by a Ranger honor guard. So I prepared for the ''perfect'' media picture of a family steeped in military tradition. There would be Kris' father, a retired Navy captain, and my oldest son, Ric, an Army warrant officer. My brother, John, who flew an A-7 in Vietnam, would don his old uniform. And, of course, the Rangers from Savannah, Georgia, would salute my son as he was carried off the plane. If the world had to witness anything publicly about our family, I thought, it would be how proud we were of him and his service.
Here's what really happened at the airport: After a long wait, we walked to the dark open cargo door of an enormous plane. We turned to face one lone video camera that the 75th Ranger Regiment was using to document the ceremony for Kris' battalion.
To my surprise, there were no national or local media cameras, even though the public affairs office had notified the media. Kris must have been laughing at his mother's ''all in vain'' planning and worrying. But my thoughts were in turmoil. Had America lost interest already? Was my son's death old news? How would Kris' legacy be documented?
After Kris' casket had been secured in the hearse and I could focus my eyes elsewhere, I noticed that what had been a busy construction site next to us was quiet. With a start, I realized that all activity in the area had stopped. Every construction worker, every security guard, every person within sight of this small, simple ceremony had come to a standstill, paying respect for this fallen soldier. Many were saluting.
They may not have known my son's name, but they knew that a soldier who had died in defense of his country was coming home to his family. I was grateful that I could see through my tears and witness this poignant tribute.
I started out thinking a magazine cover was what I needed to move on. But I discovered I would rather have the respect of a few strangers on a runway than the empathy of an entire nation.
Ruth Voshell Stonesifer, who lives in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania, is writing a book about her experiences and the life and death of her son.
STONESIFER, KRISTOFOR T
Posted: 3 August 2008 Updated: 4 August 2008 Updated: 12 August 2008 Updated: 29 August 2008
Photos Courtesy Of Holly, August 2008