NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sergeant First Class James J. Stoddard Jr., 29, of Crofton, Maryland, died in Afghanistan on September 30, 2005, when his vehicle accidentally rolled over. Stoddard was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Crofton soldier, father of three, dies in Afghanistan
A Crofton family is mourning the loss of one of its members, a star Anne Arundel County athlete and father of three, who was killed Friday in Afghanistan.
Army Sergeant First Class James J. Stoddard Jr., 29, died when the Humvee he was riding in turned over in a ditch in Kandahar Province, according to the Pentagon.
It was Sergeant Stoddard's second tour of duty in Afghanistan. He also had served in the war in Iraq.
“Nobody can answer me, why anyone had to go three times,” his mother, Kathy Stoddard of Crofton, said this morning.
Sergeant Stoddard was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He had been in the Army for eight years and in June he reenlisted for five more years.
“He 100 percent loved his job,” said his widow, Amy Stoddard. “He never, ever complained about his job.”
Sgt. Stoddard was the father of three children, his family said: Megan, 13, James III, 4, and Makenzie Erin, 1.
Sergeant Stoddard graduated from Arundel High School in 1994, where he played football and was a pitcher his senior year on the baseball that finished second in the state.
“He was a fierce competitor – he always wanted to win,” Arundel High School Athletic Director and baseball coach Bernie Walter said. “He was one of our star players, and I (often) referred to him as one of the best relief pitchers in the country.”
Retired football coach Bill Zucco remembers Sgt. Stoddard as a fearless athlete.
“He was a tough little competitor,” Mr. Zucco said. “He wasn't 6'2″, he was about 5′ 11″ and probably about 180 pounds – and I am probably making him bigger than he actually was. … He wasn't afraid to get in there and mix it up.”
Amy Stoddard said her husband, who hated working at a desk, lifted weights and worked out a lot.
“He loved to lift weights,” said Mrs. Stoddard, a nurse at University Specialty Hospital in Baltimore. “He had huge shoulders and a big chest.”
Sergeant Stoddard attended Anne Arundel Community College after graduating from high school, according to his cousin, Kevin Hamlin of Crofton.
“He was my big brother; he was just a great all-round guy. He taught me how to play sports and just looked out for me at school,” Mr. Hamlin said of his cousin, who was three years his senior.
Mr. Hamlin said a number of family members are in the military, including an uncle, Army Gen. Frank Kearney.
Mr. Hamlin said the family felt that military service in Afghanistan has been overshadowed in the public's mind by the more controversial war in Iraq.
Mr. Zucco, who coached at Arundel High School from 1966 until he retired in 2001, said he just learned of Sgt. Stoddard's death last night.
“I am stunned, but I am trying to deal with it,” said Mr. Zucco, who was reminded of when he would receive word that former students had died in the Vietnam War. “Any time you have a war, you have young kids who are going to die – it is a tough call.”
Sergeant Stoddard served in Iraq from January to April 2004, and in Afghanistan from December 2002 to June 2003. He began his current tour of duty in April.
Viewing will take place 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at Beall Funeral Home, 6512 N. Crain Highway in Bowie.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 1283 Odenton Road in Odenton. Burial will follow at 2 p.m. at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Sergeant Stoddard is survived by two sisters, Bridgett Anne Stoddard of Crofton and Katherine E. Hoffman of Erie, Pennsylvania. Sergeant Stoddard's father died in June 2004.
Sergeant Stoddard is the second area service member to die in the war on terror.
Marine Corporal Jason David Mileo, 20, who grew up in Pasadena but lived in Centreville at the time of his death, was shot and killed in Iraq in April 2003 when he was mistaken for an enemy soldier.
An Anne Arundel County high school sports star and father of three is the latest Maryland soldier to die in Afghanistan, the Defense Department announced yesterday.
Sergeant First Class James J. Stoddard Jr., 29, of Crofton was killed when the Humvee he was riding in rolled into a ditch in Kandahar, according to the Pentagon and his wife, Amy Stoddard, who said she was told that six others in the vehicle survived the accident.
While at Arundel High School, Sergeant Stoddard was known for his curve balls on the pitching mound in baseball and for his play as a wide receiver on the school's football team.
In his senior year, the 1994 graduate helped the school's baseball team to the state championship and the football team to an 8-3 record.
“He was fiery,” said retired head football coach Bill Zucco. “He got on the field and he wasn't afraid to go up against kids who were tougher than him.”
Sergeant Stoddard, who was raised in Crofton, brought that intensity to his military career, serving multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and following in the footsteps of his late father and uncle, both servicemen, his family said last night.
“He never complained,” said Amy Stoddard, 30, a nurse at University Specialty Hospital. “He knew it was his job. But he hated leaving his kids.”
Yesterday, their children – daughters Megan, 13, and Makenzie, 13 months, and son James J. III, 4, – were at their grandmother's Crofton townhouse with neighbors, family members and Sergeant Stoddard's military colleagues to mourn the soldier known as Jamie.
“My heart has been ripped out of my chest and stomped on,” said his mother, Kathleen Stoddard. Amy Stoddard and the children have been living in his mother's Crofton home.
After high school, Sergeant Stoddard attended college at Anne Arundel Community College and on the Eastern Shore. Feeling directionless, and after conferring with his uncle, Army General Frank Kearney, he joined the military, his mother said.
He enlisted eight years ago, serving with the 82nd Airborne based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as a platoon sergeant. He was in his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, his mother said.
Born in the Hudson Valley in New York, Sergeant Stoddard moved to Maryland with his family when he was about 8 but remained a hard-core New York Mets baseball fan.
He was a pitcher and third baseman on Arundel High's baseball team and a wide receiver on the football team, earning the respect of teammates and coaches for his work ethic and athletic ability, said Bernie Walter, head baseball coach and athletic director at the school.
“He was a great competitor,” Mr. Walter said. “And really a great boy with great values. He gave you his hardest. You never had any doubt how hard he wanted to play.”
When his dreams of a professional football career didn't pan out, joining the military seemed natural. Sergeant Stoddard's father, James J. Stoddard Sr., who died last year of heart failure, was a private in the Army from May 1965 to May 1970 and served in Vietnam.
“Jamie gave his life so a new nation could move forward, said General Kearney, commander of special operations, Command Central in Tampa, Florida, who was with the family last night.
Viewing hours are 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at Beall Funeral Home, 6512 Crain Highway in Bowie.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 1283 Odenton Road in Odenton, followed by interment at 2 p.m. at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Sergeant Stoddard is also survived by two sisters, Bridgett Anne Stoddard of Crofton and Katherine E. Hoffman of Erie, Pennsylvania.
Arundel Soldier Killed in Afghanistan
Devoted Sergeant, Family Man Found Purpose in the Military
James J. Stoddard Jr. was the kind of man who called his family almost every day, even when he was thousands of miles away. He checked on his mother, who was recently widowed, to make sure she was taking care of herself, and he always wanted the latest pictures of his three children.
Although he was a career soldier, he never told his relatives much about what he did. Just be there when I get off the airplane, he would tell them.
Sergeant First Class James J. Stoddard Jr., 29, was a 1994 graduate of Arundel High School.
On September 25, 2005, he called home to Crofton, as he always did, to say that he would be out of touch for a while, off on another mission in Afghanistan, where he was serving.
Sergeant First Class Stoddard, 29, died Friday when his Humvee rolled over into a ditch outside Kandahar as it went to assist another unit, the Pentagon announced yesterday.
Stoddard moved with his parents and two sisters to Crofton, in Anne Arundel County, from New York's Hudson Valley when he was 8, and he brought his love of the Giants and Mets with him. At Arundel High School he was a wide receiver, third baseman and pitcher, his mother said. In the off-season, he ran indoor track so that he could keep his legs in shape for football. He graduated in 1994.
After attending two colleges but graduating from neither, Stoddard joined the Army in 1998 to find a purpose, his mother, Kathleen Stoddard, said last night.
Stoddard was following a path set by his father, a Vietnam veteran who died last year, and an uncle who was a brigadier general. The structure of the Army suited him perfectly, his mother said.
“We're a very strong military family,” she said. “This family gives.”
Stoddard met his wife, Amy, while he was in basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1999, the couple moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Stoddard was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.
When Stoddard left for Afghanistan in April, his wife moved to Crofton with their children, Megan, 13, James, 4, and Makenzie Erin, 13 months.
As a soldier, Stoddard was always striving for more — more information for his soldiers, more equipment, more details about missions and more time to serve, friends said.
He reenlisted last year, and a year ago, after a three-month tour in Iraq, he was promoted to sergeant first class, 6 1/2 years after joining the Army. Usually, it takes twelve years, his platoon leader said.
“He was an excellent soldier, always proactive on the job,” Lieutenant Michael Adams, who served with Stoddard during his second tour of Afghanistan, said in an interview from the Stoddard home last night. “Anytime he would train soldiers, he would have an exact plan, and he would execute that plan. Our soldiers were always the best-trained in our battalion.”
On his first tour of Afghanistan, when his soldiers were performing duties outside in the dead of winter, he made sure they had coffee, soup, warm clothes and heaters.
“He was the type of guy that stood out because he took care of his fellow soldiers and his family,” said Capt. Kyle Reed, who also served with Stoddard in Afghanistan.
“He was a phenomenal leader, father and husband who was always dedicated and devoted.”
Although he had a serious face, his mother said, he had a bright smile and loved to tease. He didn't even mind being called a mama's boy.
“He was my boy,” she said. “My baby.”
Burial will be 2 p.m. Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.
Slain soldier mourned and honored at service
Sgt. 1st Class James Stoddard Jr. remembered as a good friend, ‘outstanding man'
The casket of Sgt. 1st Class James Stoddard Jr. is carried from St. Joseph Catholic Church
in Odenton. The 29-year-old Crofton resident and father of three was killed in Afghanistan
when the Humvee he was riding in rolled over. At right stands his widow, Amy Stoddard.
Amy Stoddard, widow of Sgt. 1st Class James Stoddard Jr., is comforted by her escort,
Captain Kyle Reed, while her husband's casket is carried from St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Odenton.
In a light but steady rain, 12 members of Sergeant First Class James Stoddard Jr.'s battalion stood at attention as his coffin was transported from a hearse to the vestibule of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Odenton. With bagpipes sounding, two soldiers removed the flag that had been draped over the simple casket, folded it in the customary triangular fashion and saluted.
Stoddard, 29, of Crofton, was killed September 30, 2005, while serving in Afghanistan after his Humvee rolled into a ditch. His death came during a third tour of duty after deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, and just over a year after his father, James Stoddard Sr., was memorialized and buried at the same parish in June 2004.
In a nearly two-hour service yesterday that offered mourners the opportunity to share their memories and impressions of Stoddard, a portrait emerged of a young soldier, husband and father of three who protected and touched those around him with his kindness, warm sense of humor and crushing yet affectionate bear hug.
“He gave me the most powerful hug I've ever had in my life,” one boyhood friend recounted. “And my father's a big man.”
Among the more than 150 people at the service were those who knew Stoddard as Jamie, a schoolboy in Anne Arundel County, and those who worked with him at Kaufmann's Tavern in Gambrills, where he was renowned for his jovial nature and ever-present smile. Several cousins and friends referred to him as a brother.
Kevin Hamlin, 26, a cousin, recalled childhood memories of piling into the “Stoddard station wagon” and driving to Fort Meade to watch Fourth of July fireworks, or to Sandy Point for the annual seafood festival.
“He taught me everything a guy needed to know, both good and bad,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin said Stoddard was someone he always knew he could count on.
“This isn't something that the Army taught him,” he said. “It started with his mom and dad.”
Another cousin, John Kearney, read from a letter that Stoddard wrote to his late father from Afghanistan on June 8, the one-year anniversary of the elder Stoddard's death. In the letter, Stoddard expressed concern for the family that his tour of duty had separated him from, and stated that he had struggled to deal with his father's death. He said he looked forward their reunion, but that he had much to do in life first.
Seated in two pews, members of Stoddard's 2nd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment hung their heads, often choking back tears as they related stories of their service together.
“They've always told me that you don't have to be the brightest guy, but if you surround yourself with bright people, then you will shine,” said 1st Sgt. Bruce Myers. “By having Jamie in my squadron, I shined. And I shined very brightly because of that.”
“He was a man who loved his family, and he respected the hell out of his crew,” Myers said. “We'll shed a lot of tears, but the memories that we have of him will never go away. We definitely lost an outstanding man, a good husband, a good father, a good son.”
After the service, Stoddard's body was taken to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where he was buried with full military honors.
STODDARD, JAMES JOHN JR
SFC US ARMY
DATE OF BIRTH: 09/01/1976
DATE OF DEATH: 09/30/2005
BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 8221
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard