|Becki's Tribute for WO1 Adrian Stump:
On July 7, 1983 a baby boy entered this world. I remember so well this little blonde cherub with an easy smile, his trademark smile, and a feisty nature. One could see what an enormous delight he was to his proud parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
The little cherub quickly grew into an adventurous young lad who loved to camp and hunt and fish, to ski, and to ride anything on wheels. He loved the fresh air and the tall mountains, the rivers and the streams, the animals and the birds. It was the lad’s parents who encouraged him to be bold and self-confident by introducing him to the great outdoors with all of its wonders and challenges. And I remember how the young lad embraced it all with unbounded joy, and with that quick and easy smile.
In a few short years, the boy was joined by a brother and two sisters. Oh, what fun for the lad! Now, he had someone to play with, fight with, wrestle and argue with. Of course, like every healthy, normal older brother, he delighted in antagonizing his younger brother and sisters. I know there were times when his parents wondered how soon their hair would turn gray; but then he would flash that easy smile, and they would know there was no meanness in their son’s heart, that it all was just the way an older brother loves.
I watched as the boy grew up in a loving home. He always had the support and guidance of people who loved him and cared about him, people who wanted him to live to the fullest whatever life had to offer. They encouraged him to go after what he wanted and follow his dreams.
That loving family also gave the boy something that he practiced all his life: the gifts of kindness and compassion. Whether someone was young or old, or in between, he treated them with respect and consideration. All who knew him will agree with me when I say that, plain and simple, this young man was just a nice guy who was a pleasure to talk to, and who never failed to flash that easy smile.
As the boy grew and matured, he discovered he did have a dream, something he had to pursue. That dream was to fly. Now, all young men have dreams; most forget them or abandon them for life’s practicalities. But not this young man. This dream of his was more than a dream. It was a passion, a life’s passion, one that any young man worth his salt could not ignore and had to follow.
I do not know how this young man found this dream. Maybe it came from watching the eagles and hawks soar through the sky and feeling his heart ache to join them, to feel the warmth of the sun on his face and the wind under his wings, and to experience total freedom from gravity itself. Maybe he thought that, by learning to fly, he could help others in need. And maybe, it was just because he loved an adventure and flying is one of those great adventures that have captivated so many down through the ages.
Thus, it was no surprise to me that, when the young man finished school, he immediately took steps to realize his dream. He dedicated himself totally, studying hard and working hard. He was a joy to his instructors, eager to learn and soak up all the knowledge and information he could. And he had no fear, embracing every opportunity with gusto and enthusiasm, and that wonderful smile.
If anyone had doubts before, there were none now. The cherub had grown to be a boy, and the boy to be a young man. However, they were gone now, and in their place was a man – still young and seeking adventure, but also a mature and responsible man ready to face life’s challenges.
I know that, once he completed his training and actually started flying, it was the BIGGEST thrill this young man had ever experienced. No adrenaline rush he had ever experienced could hold a candle to the feelings of joy and freedom and competence he had when he piloted his aircraft. Of course, this only confirmed what he already had known. To fly was why he was born. Thus, every time he flew, he experienced what perhaps few of us have – to know oneself and to fulfill that self completely. No doubt, every time he flew, there was that smile.
However, this young man that everyone thought of as kind and considerate and who had found his joy in life, this young man also was aware that many people in the world do not have the freedoms and liberties that he and his countrymen enjoy. Despite the enormous danger, he stepped forward and accepted the responsibility of helping them make a better life for themselves. He was anxious and eager to go. In fact, he had to work extra hard and get special permission to go.
The young man left for Afghanistan with a deep conviction in the rightness of what he was doing, a handmade quilt from his mama, and that easy smile. He kept in constant contact with his family and friends, but never burdened them with whatever unpleasantness he found in war. His messages always were he was doing great and getting the bad guys. He sent emails and pictures and always there was that easy smile. He was such a handsome young man!
On September 25, 2005, the world lost that smile. On that day, Warrant Office I Adrian Bove Stump made the ultimate sacrifice when his helicopter crashed. He and his comrades served their nation with dedication and pride, and he died doing what he loved. While this fact does not mitigate the loss of such a magnificent young man, it may make our grief a bit easier to bear.
A group of students were asked to list what they thought were the present “Seven Wonders of the World.” The following received the most votes: Egypt’s Great Pyramids, The Taj Mahal, The Grand Canyon, The Panama Canal, The Empire State Building, St. Peters Basilica and China’s Great Wall.
While gathering the votes, the teacher noticed that one student had not yet finished her paper. She asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list. The girl replied, “Yes a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there are so many.” The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.” The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World are: To see … to hear … to touch … to taste … to feel … to laugh … and to love.” The room was absolutely silent.
The most precious things in life cannot be built by hand or bought by man. Rather, it is the things we overlook as simple and ordinary, and that we take for granted, that are truly the things that are the most wondrous.
We are all indeed lucky to have lived, laughed, seen, touched and loved with Adrian. Who he was and the way he lived his life can and did inspire us all. And so it should be.
On the day he died, Adrian earned a new set of wings - the golden wings of an angel. We can know that he is in a beautiful place, now, and probably already on a new adventure. Or, perhaps he has a new responsibility. Just as there are angels whose purpose is to bend down to the grass and whisper “Grow”, perhaps it is Adrian’s new assignment to whisper in the ears of baby birds, “Fly”.
Forever more when I watch a bird soar overhead, I will believe that it is Adrian looking down and keeping an eye on all of us; and, no doubt, on his face will be that easy smile.
God bless you Adrian, and may you rest in peace.
|From The Oregonian oregonlive.com
Memorial Day 2013: Remembering Adrian Stump, Tane Baum, Johnny Flynn, Patrick Stewart and Ken Ross
By Mike Francis, The Oregonian
on May 26, 2013 at 10:06 AM, updated May 26, 2013 at 10:59 PM
It's been almost eight years and there's still a void where Adrian Stump was.
It's plain from listening to the helicopter pilots and others who knew him when he lived in Pendleton and then deployed to Afghanistan. It's plain from seeing the way lives changed after his Chinook was shot down, killing him and Tane Baum, also of Pendleton, Johnny Flynn and Patrick Stewart, both of Reno, and Kenneth Ross, of Tucson.
Dave Long, now 43, was one of those closest to Stump. He was one of a group of four grieving pilots with Pendleton's D Company of the 113th Aviation Battalion who quit the military after getting home from the 2005-06 deployment. They had each other, but they were devastated by the loss of their five friends. They needed to change course.
"The reason I was able to deal with it so well was because we were able to talk about it openly," said Long. He and his wife Brenda sold their Pendleton house and most of their possessions, eventually moving across the state to Newberg, where he took a job with the Federal Aviation Administration. The others went elsewhere, to work as border patrol pilots or maintenance test pilots. They have scattered, but they are linked by a terrible September day in Afghanistan.
On Sept. 25, 2005, the Chinook helicopter copiloted by Stump, 22, had dropped 30 soldiers into a volatile area in southeastern Afghanistan. The soldiers were inserted in an effort to capture one of the military's "high-value targets" among the Taliban.
After the drop, the three Chinooks turned back and headed for home. Flying low through a canyon, the lead Chinook was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade -- a relatively short-distance, imprecise weapon, fired from the shoulder -- which penetrated the fuel tank, triggering a fire that engulfed the aircraft, which crashed into the face of a cliff.
At first, it wasn't clear what happened. Tony Minkler, flying in the second Chinook, didn't see the RPG, but he saw how a basketball-sized flame flared to the full height of the Chinook in a matter of seconds. And he saw how the helicopter smashed into the cliff at high speed.
"From beginning to end was about 15 seconds," said Minkler. "Fifteen seconds seems like a lifetime."
Dave Doran, who commanded the Pendleton-based detachment, accompanied Stump's remains all the way from Afghanistan, to Dover, Del., and then to Pendleton. The experience was, he said, "surreal."
More than a thousand people attended Stump's memorial service. He was remembered for his sense of humor and his enthusiasm. Said one of his friends, "I've never laughed so hard or had so much fun as I did with him."
Stump and Baum are among the 157 service members from Oregon and Southwest Washington to have been killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the week before Memorial Day 2013, the overall toll of U.S. dead in the wars stood at 6,708.
When someone is killed in a war zone, the U.S. military shuts down Internet access and forbids phone calls, hoping to suppress the news until it can contact the next of kin. In the case of the Chinook crash, it ended up being a 72-hour blackout, Long says.
For 72 hours, his wife didn't know who had been killed. And when the word finally came she broke down in tears. Her husband had survived, but Stump did not.
"She knew how much I loved that kid," Long said.
Stump won over the members of the Pendleton detachment beginning the day he walked in at age 14, vowing to do whatever it took to become a helicopter pilot.
His father, Jerry Stump, said Adrian got his first taste of flying when he rode a small helicopter in British Columbia during a family fishing trip. And when the Chinook unit came to Pendleton, "he loved that."
Because he was so young, he faced hurdles. He needed his parents' permission to join the military at 17. He had to complete basic training, then flight school. He wasn't finished when the unit was sent to Afghanistan in March 2005.
Doran, the commander, said he had a plan for Stump to carry out his pilot duties at home in Pendleton. But Stump begged to be allowed to join the detachment in Afghanistan. "I made a promise to him to leave a vacancy," said Doran, now an active-duty officer at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va.
Said Jerry Stump, Adrian's father, of his son, "He called every general he knew, begging to go with the unit. We never found that out until later."
Stump arrived in Afghanistan about five weeks after the main detachment. He was still "wide-eyed" and eager to go on missions, said Doran.
Stump had endeared himself to the unit with his enthusiasm and work ethic, said Long. "I don't know anybody who didn't like him," he said.
The missions were dangerous. The Army used the Chinooks not just to ferry troops and equipment, but to carry out assaults. On the Chinooks' return to base, they were flying without the attack Apaches and Blackhawks that often provided escorts. That's a detail that still angers Jerry Stump.
"They didn't have air support," he said. And they were flying low, within range of the "hornet's nest" stirred up by the insertion and by the country's first democratic election in decades. "They never should have died."
After eight years as a civilian, Long is scratching his itch to return to the military. As an FAA inspector, he's given ratings to pilots who were in Afghanistan two days earlier.
"I feel like I'm sitting on the sidelines," he said. "I see kids flying Chinooks and I'm gritting my teeth."
So Long is returning to the unit. He just re-established his security clearance and expected to get his orders by the end of last week. This will position him to return to Afghanistan next year with Pendleton's detachment, renamed as B Company of the 1-168 Aviation.
"I know the government spent a lot of money on me and I know I can fly a helicopter," said Long. "Somebody's got to end the war in Afghanistan. It might as well be me."
About 60 troops from the Pendleton aviation company, along with about 1,200 from the Clackamas-based 41st Infantry Brigade and 160 from the Warrenton-based 234th Engineers are still scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan next year, although many National Guard units that were scheduled to go have been told to stand down. As the government reduces the number of troops in Afghanistan on its way to a full exit by the end of next year, more of the deployment slots are being filled by full-time, active-duty troops.
Minkler left the military and became a civilian maintenance pilot at Fort Rucker, Ala. Now he's joined the Alabama National Guard and may deploy to Afghanistan again next year.
It's a unique camaraderie to be in a National Guard pilot with others who are professionals in different walks of civilian life, said Minkler. "It's the coolest club you can imagine," he said.
He is glad that people still think about Adrian Stump, Tane Baum and the others.
"I think those people should be remembered as heroes," he said. It's also important, he said, to remember that others are still carrying out missions in war zones.
"Every night, those guys are strapping it on, scared. They won't admit it, but they are," Minkler said. "It's not over."