Monday, April 10, 2006

trust fund set up for collin, costall's son ...

trust fund for his son, Pte. Robbie Costall, at 22, was killed in Afghanistan on March 28

U.S. medic died next to Canadian soldier U.S. medic, 52, followed his heart
Slain same night as Pte. Rob Costall

{'Rob Costall's death has dominated the news in Canada, where no soldier had died in such a firefight in three decades.

Outside Vermont, Stone's death barely rated a brief in large U.S. newspapers, dying as he did in a "forgotten war," when all journalistic and political eyes are trained on Iraq.'}

TUNBRIDGE, Vt.—As a kid, the man they called "Stoney" would trek through the Vermont woods with his friends, a pocketful of rocks at the ready just in case some bad guys popped out of the Green Mountains. Even then, he was looking out for his buddies.

Sgt. 1st Class John Thomas Stone was happiest when he was moving, a kid who'd listen in awe and big-eyed wonderment to the tales told by his big brother Dana, a legendary photojournalist who carved a life of perilous journey.

Stone, who went by his middle name, was a junior in high school when Dana, on assignment for CBS News, disappeared in Cambodia along with Sean Flynn, the son of actor Errol Flynn.

On April 6, 1970, Dana and Flynn, who was working for Time magazine, rode into the Cambodian countryside on motorbikes and were captured by communist guerrillas. The two were never heard from again.

Dana became the first of the Stone boys to die in a war zone.

A year later, motivated in part by a desire to learn what had happened to his brother, Tom Stone joined the U.S. Army.

Pte. Rob Costall, meanwhile, was a scrappy hockey player, but still wrote poetry in Grade 9. He surprised many when he decided to enlist.

The Canadian military gave him a sense of direction, relatives say, providing him with a lifestyle he quickly embraced.

The 21-year-old Canadian with the year-old child and high-school sweetheart at home had been in Afghanistan for 52 days.

Stone, the 52-year-old American medic who found love much later in life — and who looked after children far from home, though he himself had none — had spent his life in and out of the military, and began his third tour of duty in Afghanistan last July with the Vermont National Guard.

But they did have something in common. Both believed they could make a difference in Afghanistan.

And they died, an American and a Canadian together, in a firefight last week in Helmand province, 110 kilometres from Kandahar city.

It's believed to be the first time such allies have died fighting side by side in more than half a century.

Costall was buried yesterday in Gibsons, a community of 4,000 on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, best known as the home of CBC TV's Beachcombers.

Almost an entire continent away, the two women who knew Stone best are grieving in a house he had made a home.

The cause of the soldiers' deaths is still shrouded in confusion and an investigation will determine if they were felled by friendly fire. But it would surprise no one who knew Stone in Vermont if the American had been rushing to the aid of his fallen Canadian comrade when he was killed.

"`Hey babe, I'll see you in two weeks and I really love you,'" Stone told Rose Loving the night before he died.

"I was getting ready for all this stuff. We were going to do an addition on this house and I was lining everything up," she says.

But, uncharacteristically, he wouldn't tell Loving where he was.

He didn't want her to worry.

She knew the landscape in Afghanistan too well, knew where the danger zones were.

"He was killed the next day," she says.

Loving and her daughter, Sage Lewis, sit at their dining room table, at a shrine to Stone created to help ease their loss.

As the sun sets over the Vermont hills, Loving speaks of their early days together, of the kind of man Stone was, and of his need to wander the world.

Most of all, she speaks of her understanding that he needed to be in Afghanistan and her knowledge that she couldn't — wouldn't — do anything to get in the way.

"Tom always had this drum beating for something else, but we knew we were soulmates," she says. And the restless soul had shown signs of settling.

They bought the house in which Loving has lived for 16 years in January, 2005.

When Stone was home, they'd sit on their deck in its idyllic setting.

"We always held hands," Loving says. "That was what we did.

"After six years together, we would just sit and hold hands. We could be driving to the dump and we would hold hands ... "That's just the way we were.

"Tom never met anyone who would let him be what he needed to be and still supported him 100 per cent. Sage and I, we completed his life. This is what he always wanted and he never had."

Rob Costall didn't talk about the war in Afghanistan, or tell his wife too much about what he'd been assigned to do there.

`He was like his name, he was a rock'

U.S. Sgt. Buck Felch, friend and comrade of Sgt. 1st Class John Thomas Stone


All he wanted to know was how Chrissy, his 20-year-old wife, and year-old son Colin were making out without him.

He was due back in early May and was looking forward to the reunion, Chrissy told the Edmonton Sun.

"He would have been home May 5 for 19 days before heading back until the end of July," she said. "If only we could have seen him one more time. He was such a proud father."

Every time she looks at her young son she sees her husband, she says.

"Colin will grow up knowing his dad was a hero."

They had married in September 2004, but had met in elementary school in Gibsons, B.C., then dated throughout high school.

Costall enlisted in the military at the age of 19, a year later than Stone.

His Grade 9 English teacher has recalled a handsome but shy young man who had "a little bit of warrior in him." He hung out with a tough crowd, but was fiercely loyal to his friends.

Costall's aunt, Colleen McBain, told the Star's Dale Brazao that the decision to join the military gave her nephew a real sense of direction in life.

"He wanted to make a difference, and that's what drew him into the military," she said from her home in Thunder Bay, where Costall joined up.

"He was going to make his mark in life."

"Tom was just this really fun, crazy, magical guy," says Lewis who, as a 7-year-old, lost herself in his stories, and often went hiking with him in the Vermont countryside on "a whim."

"He called me `Sugar'," she says.

She and her newly single mom lived in a house in Pomfret. Stone rented the ground floor flat. For a man who never had children of his own, Stone's bond with youngsters was clear in the early 1990s, when he decided to walk around the world.

No one in Vermont's Upper Valley questioned the decision. That was just the type of thing Stone would do.

He told Lynn McMorris, the principal of Pomfret School, that he'd like to stay in touch with the children and tell them of his travels.

"He wanted to be `grounded' somewhere, that was the word he used,'' McMorris remembered this week. "He wanted to be connected and he thought the school could be that connection."

The kindergarten class walked with him on the first half-kilometre of the trek. Upon his return seven years later, members of that same class returned to the school to greet him. In letters and postcards, Stone had regaled them with tales of magical places — Russia, Japan, South Korea, Iceland, Ireland, Australia — often responding personally to students' questions. When Stone's letters arrived, an assembly was always hastily convened at Pomfret School.

"I'm in Helsinki and as soon as I can wash some socks and pack my pack, I'm off to Russia," he wrote in July 1993. Said a 1992 note from Newfoundland: "Just because you don't know where you are going, there's no excuse for being late.'' The kids would shriek with delight.

In Afghanistan, Stone treated children at clinics he'd established to replace medical services shut down by the Taliban.

Colleagues at the Vermont National Guard show a visitor pictures of wide-eyed Afghan children staring up at their uniformed protector. Stone was awarded a Bronze Star for his work. The U.S. military said he had a "saint-like compassion and innate resolve to ease the suffering of innocents in the desperate nation.

Rob Costall's death has dominated the news in Canada, where no soldier had died in such a firefight in three decades.

Outside Vermont, Stone's death barely rated a brief in large U.S. newspapers, dying as he did in a "forgotten war," when all journalistic and political eyes are trained on Iraq.

Eleven Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died in Afghanistan. Stone was the first Vermonter killed in Afghanistan. Yesterday, a member of Costall's platoon who'd accompanied his remains to Gibsons followed his casket into church as an overflow crowd gathered outside. Colleagues at Greg Costall's workplace plan a memorial to his fallen son.

Old hockey buddies honoured Costall's memory.

"He knew the dangers, and he never, ever flinched," McBain said.

Chrissy Costall found solace in her husband's dedication to the mission. "If it wasn't him, it would have been someone else. He was proud to be a soldier," she said. "He was dedicated to me and our baby, but also to Canada."

At Camp Johnson, headquarters of the Vermont National Guard, they think there should be a monument to "Stoney."

"He was like his name, he was a rock," says Sgt. Buck Felch. "There should be a stone monument to this man. He helped everyone he touched."

Maj. Tom Cahalan remembers waking one morning to brilliant snow-capped Afghan mountains. Stone, the world traveller, told him they reminded him of his days trekking in Nepal.

"He who sees the sun rise over the Hindu Kush has all their sins forgiven," Stone told him.

"Go, sin no more," Cahalan told his comrade.

"No," Stone replied, "that wouldn't be any fun. Besides, the sun comes up every day."


Revolutionary Blogger said...

Sad for any Canadian to die for the sake of their neighbors' misadvantures.

audacious said...

sad for the u.s. medic who tried to help him died also ... . couldn't refind the article to post with it ...

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