Stephen Vernon Long
Major, United States Army
Stephen Vernon Long
Army Major Stephen Vernon Long, 39, entered active duty as an enlisted soldier 20 years before he was killed in the Pentagon attack. He started with a stint as a gunner at Fort Lewis, Washington, in July 1981, and as with many longtime servicemen, his career took him across the globe, from conflict to conflict.
Long saw military action as a paratrooper in Grenada with the 2nd Ranger Battalion in Operation Urgent Fury, where he received a Purple Heart. Seven years later, as a platoon leader for the 82nd Airborne Division, Long was among the first troops deployed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, for Operation Desert Shield and the ensuing Persian Gulf War.
In the interim, Long had been selected for a "Green to Gold" scholarship to Augusta (Georgia) State University and moved from the enlisted to officer ranks.
Long remained in Saudi Arabia until March 1993, when he moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, followed by a nearly three-year tour in Germany. In April 1998, Long joined the U.S. Total Army Personnel Command in Alexandria, where he was working as secretary of the general staff for the office of the commanding general. A meeting brought him to the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
He is survived by his wife and two stepsons.
"I'm really a nice guy," Long kept muttering, according to his wife, Tina. "You wouldn't be shooting at me if you knew what a nice guy I am."
Long landed unharmed, but in a follow-up raid on a Cuban military camp, several Black Hawk helicopters carrying Long and other Rangers came under fire and crashed. "His roommate and best friend was killed," said Tina Long. "It hurt him greatly."
Long was injured in the crash but continued fighting and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for Valor and the Purple Heart.
With the encouragement of his wife and commanders, he went to college and received a commission as an officer, and he later served with the 82nd Airborne Division during the Persian Gulf War. As a personnel officer, a job he took after injuries no longer allowed him to serve in combat, Long agonized over where to assign soldiers, knowing his decisions could harm careers or break up families. "Many a night he was losing sleep on where he was sending people," Tina Long said.
But he never regretted his service. "It was just his love of his country," she said. "I know it sounds simple, but that's the way he was."
Photo By M. R. Patterson, July 2002
Posted: 19 October 2001 Updated: 21 September 2002 Updated: 9 March 2003 Updated: 7 July 2003 Updated: 6 November 2005
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 27 June 2003