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Soldiers gather to honor fellow reservist
When word went out, earlier this month, that an honor guard was being assembled to attend the Michigan funeral of Douglas Stone, there were far more volunteers than plane tickets.
Stone, a popular and respected Army Reservist who helped prepare thousands of soldiers for their war deployments, died March 11 in Iraq. Officials from the 96th Regional Readiness Command, where Stone had worked since 1999, when he moved to Utah from Michigan, said they had to turn away soldiers who wanted to help provide military honors to their friend.
But on Tuesday evening, everyone got that chance.
One by one, more than a hundred soldiers rendered a final, slow salute before a traditional military memorial - Stone's boots, inverted rifle and empty helmet - at the Fort Douglas chapel.
Ryan Cormier had difficulty mustering the words to explain what it meant to be able to honor his friend in that way - he could only manage a thumbs up as he choked back tears. But Cormier had no difficulty expressing what Stone meant to those with whom he worked at the 96th headquarters, just down the hill from the chapel.
"He was the funniest guy in the command," Cormier said. "He'd say something to you and if you didn't laugh, he'd give you this funny look - and then you would have to laugh."
No one questioned Stone's dedication as a soldier. When something needed to be done, said Mark Rhodes, Stone "always went above and beyond."
That sort of devotion to duty bought the 49-year-old Taylorsville resident the latitude to be, as his friend Jeff Black put it, "quirky."
"He would follow orders," Black said, "but there were going to be terms."
Details about how the Taylorsville resident died have still not been made public. Army officials said Tuesday the "non-combat incident" was still under investigation.
Tuesday's memorial was the first chance for most members of the 96th to visit with Stone's widow and children. And 96th commander Peter Cooke told the grieving family that they would always be welcome at Fort Douglas.
"God bless you and your family - our family," Cooke said