The NBC News site asks if anyone notice the 2000th death in Afghanistan...Yes I did, we did--My hometown of Tolar gathered to honor our fallen hero Wednesday night.
I've often commented on my little town, it's fairly close knit and pretty red for a Dem living here. But all of that went to the wayside when our community learned we lost one of ours in Afghanistan on the 29th of September.
Last Saturday, Sgt. 1st Class Riley G. Stephens, 39, was shot and killed by an Afghan National Army soldier at a highway checkpoint in Wardak Province. The Airborne Special Forces member had three children and a wife. Residents in his tiny hometown, Tolar, Texas, gathered Wednesday night on the local high school football field, burning candles in his honor.NBC Nightly News 2000 Gone In Afghanistan
Sgt. 1st Class Riley Stephens has the sad distinction of being the 2000th death in Afghanistan. But here in Tolar Texas, he's the first of our community to fall, nothing matters more to us now than to honor his sacrifice and care for his family. We remembered him Wednesday night.
Wednesday night we came together. The VFW donated flags of every size and served as the honor guard. Two of the churches donated money to pay for gas so that we could use buses to pick up our elderly and shut-ins. Everyone pitched in to prepare the field, stake the flags, hang banners and set up chairs on the old football field--The field Riley played on when he was a proud Tolar Rattler. Usually our hearts bleed purple around here for our Tolar Rattlers, but Wednesday night, our hearts were bleeding red, white and blue.
Riley's number 66, was retired at the memorial service, that jersey will now go into the trophy case with his name on it. His friends spoke remembering that hard headed rascal loved by so many. They reminded us of his antics, his love for sports and his dogged determination in all things. In his life he was a decorated solider, a Green Beret, a Bronze Star recipient, along with a number of Purple Hearts. He achieved much in 39 years. He leaves behind a wife and three children.
As with most small towns in Texas, high school football is a big thing. Tonight when our high school team takes the field, Riley will be there with them.
Tomorrow we will line the highway as his body comes home for burial.
I can't put into words all the emotion from that night. I'm still trying to wrap my head knowing what's happened. But one thing I do know for sure, this war needs to come to an end now, not in 2014. That's too long and we as a nation have lost enough of our sons and daughters. Bring them home now.
A few pictures from Wednesday night.