FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska (9/12/2012) — Sgt. Stephen Stoops,
assigned to the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, was awarded
the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, July 23, for his selfless actions
on a small base in southern Afghanistan which saved the lives of two
Soldiers in January 2012.
Army Sgt. Stephen Stoops receives the Bronze Star with Valor from
Col. Reed on July 23, 2012. Photo by Army Sgt. Michael Blalack
Stoops is a mild-mannered young man from Port Orchard, Wash. He
married his sweetheart, Amanda, and together they are raising their
son Joshua, 4.
Two years after his son was born, Stephen
found himself struggling to make ends meet, working as a mechanic
and trying to raise a family.
“I came from a military family
and I've always wanted to serve my country,” Stoops said.
When Stoops enlisted in the Army, the thought never entered his
mind that he would find himself on a small dusty outpost in
Afghanistan called Forward Operating Base Eagle and he did not
expect to be receiving the Bronze Star for valor.
On Jan. 8, 2012, Stoops along with a group of other Soldiers from
the 1-24th, were playing football during some downtime, when a hail
of gunfire interrupted their game.
“The first thought that
went through my head was to find cover,” Stoops recalled.
In the first seconds of the shooting, Stoops tried to
make sense of what was going on and discovered that two of
his fellow Soldiers, Pvt. First Class John Bolan and Pvt.
First Class Dustin Napier were wounded and laying on the
Stoops recalls seeing the assailant dressed in
an Afghan Army uniform and shooting a rifle in his
“I ran back towards the [entry control
point] when I saw Sgt. Lewis pushing back onto the soccer
field with a weapon he had taken from one of the 1-14 Cav.
[entry control point] guards,” Stoops said.
Jacob Lewis was first to respond to the attack. But he did
not have to wait long for support, as Stoops was quick to
find a weapon and join in the defense of their fallen
“I couldn't let him go back out there by
himself not knowing what else was out there,” Stoops said.
“When we linked up we decided to flank the enemy and bound
towards our wounded Soldiers.”
The Bronze Star Medal
citation for which Stoops was awarded reads, “For
exceptionally valorous service during Operation Enduring
Freedom. His heroic actions and complete disregard for his
own safety during an enemy attack on Forward Operating base
Apache in Afghanistan saved the lives of his fellow
soldiers. His bravery is in keeping with the finest
traditions of military service and reflects distinct credit
upon himself, Task Force Arctic Wolves, Regional Command
South, and the United States Army.”
Stoops and Lewis
were able to kill the enemy gunman and move to the fallen
U.S. Soldiers. Napier died from his injuries in that attack
and Bolan is still receiving treatment for his injuries.
“I want people to remember that [Dustin Napier] was an
outstanding soldier, husband, brother, son and friend that
paid the ultimate sacrifice. He was kindhearted and always
had a smile on his face,” Stoops said. “I will never forget
Napier; he has touched my life.”
It takes a certain
measure of courage to leave the civilian life and join the
Army with a wife and kids. It takes even more than that to
earn a valorous medal in combat.
Stoops is one of 92
soldiers of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th
Infantry Division who earned medals for valor during this
recent deployment, including Sgt. Lewis, who was recommended
for the Silver Star for his actions.
attack on FOB Eagle, Stoops was a team leader in charge of
four soldiers. He played a critical role in Operation
Fairbanks in Zabul Province where U.S. forces helped secure
and construct a major roadway in the district. The operation
drove the insurgents out and allowed local merchants and
farmers to take their goods to the market.
with securing the roadwork teams, and maintaining security
throughout the course of the operation, Stoops has also been
recognized by his supervisors as a consistently competent
and dependable NCO.
What drives a person like Stoops
to put his own life in danger?
“The relationship we have
with our battle buddies is that everyone is family. It
doesn't matter what someone says or has done. Your ‘battles'
will always have your back,” Stoops said.
war in Afghanistan is winding down, he plans to continue to
serve in the Army and train his soldiers for the next
mission, whatever that may be.
“I love my job and
training my soldiers,” he said.
By Army Maj. David Mattox
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