Fallen soldier victim of friendly fire

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(Host) The partner of fallen Vermont Army Guard Sergeant Tom Stone says she’s been told by the military that Stone died as the result of a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.

But Rose Loving says she’s frustrated that the Army has provided her with few details about the progress of its investigation or the circumstances surrounding Stone’s death.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) A candle burns on a small table in the Tunbridge home Rose Loving and Tom Stone shared. Around it are photos of Stone, his army dog tags and his military medics ID.

On another table are spread photos of Stone took of himself only days before he was killed.

(Loving) “This is where he was killed, up on this sandbag roof, which isn’t very high up.”

(Zind) The photos show Stone wearing a baseball cap Loving sent him. He’d had her name embroidered on it.

(Loving) “As I started looking at all these pictures, I started to understand what he was doing.”

(Zind) Stone was killed during a firefight while on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Loving has studied every detail of the photographs. Understanding where Stone was, what he was doing and, even as painful as they might be, the details of how Stone died is important to Loving and she’s frustrated that an investigation into his death still hasn’t been concluded.

(Loving) “I would like to know. I would like to know the official story of what happened. It’s my feeling that seven months, almost seven months after Tom was killed, that this investigation should be telling the family what’s going on.”

(Zind) The 52-year-old Stone was killed on March 29th. Within days, the Army announced it was launching an investigation into his death and that of a Canadian soldier killed at the same time. There were indications the deaths were the result of friendly fire.

After the announcement Loving waited for more information. She says as the months have passed, the Army has offered no explanation about why the investigation is taking as long as it has.

The only information she had about Stone’s death was provided by the Vermont Guard soldiers who served with him in Afghanistan.

Then, a few weeks ago Loving was told by the Army Casualty Officer assigned to her that Stone had been killed by friendly fire.

(Loving) “Basically, of official information the only thing I’ve been told is that Tom was killed by an American soldier and that was fairly recently.”

(Zind) Loving has written to Vermont Adjutant General Michael Dubie to express her frustration that the investigation hasn’t yet been concluded. He sent her a handwritten letter explaining that it was taking longer than expected because it also involved the Canadian military.

In response to an inquiry, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, which is conducting the investigation, told VPR that it understands the frustration of family members, but it can’t predict how long an investigation will take and it can’t release any information until it’s satisfied a thorough review has been conducted.

For Loving, getting the official story of what happened to Tom Stone will allow her to take one more step in the process of mourning his loss.

(Loving) “The Army is responsible to the families to tell them what happened officially. It’s also part of the process of continuing to look for things, continuing to uncover, continuing to have the details even though it may not change the situation, but for me, just in helping to express my grief and go through that process. It’s like I want to follow everything until I can just sit quiet.”

(Zind) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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