Stephan Lee Mace – Specialist, United States Army

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

October 07, 2009

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of eight soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died October 3, 2009, in Kamdesh, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their contingency outpost with small arms, rocket-propelled grenade and indirect fires. They were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Ca.rson, Colorado

Killed were:

  • Staff Sergeant Vernon W. Martin, 25 of Savannah, Georgia
  • Sergeant Justin T. Gallegos, 27, of Tucson, Arizona
  • Sergeant Joshua M. Hardt, 24, of Applegate, California
  • Sergeant Joshua J. Kirk, 30, of South Portland, Maine
  • Sgt. Michael P. Scusa, 22, of Villas, New Jersey
  • Specialist Christopher T. Griffin, 24, of Kincheloe, Michigan
  • Specialist Stephan L. Mace, 21, of Lovettsville, Virginia
  • Private First Class Kevin C. Thomson, 22, of Reno, Nevada

By Jana Wagoner
Courtesy of The Loudoun Times-Mirror
Tuesday, October 6 2009

It's tradition in the U.S. Army that when a soldier earns the duty of cavalry scout, he is given the right to wear the cavalry Stetson hat and spurs as part of his dress uniform.

Stephan Lee Mace, 21, of Purcellville, Virginia, earned that right as part of the 3-61 Cavalry out of Fort Carson, Colorado.


“That's what he did, he earned his spurs,” said Mace's grandfather, Ted Petro. “But we'll never see him wear them or his Stetson.”

Mace was one of eight soldiers killed in an October 3, 2009, battle in Afghanistan as part of the United States' Operation Enduring Freedom.

Mace's body arrived in Dover, Delaware, October 6, 2009, and his mother, Vanessa Adelson, plans to fly on a small plane with her son to Leesburg Executive Airport sometime in the next several days. A police escort will then accompany Mace's body to Hall Funeral Home in Purcellville where arrangements are still being made.

Cavalry scouts are known as some of the toughest, most dependable soldiers in the Army, so it was no surprise to his family that that was what Mace wanted to be.

He showed his ruggedness on various sports fields, on motocross tracks and in his love for the outdoors.

“Even though he was a thin kid, he was one of the toughest ones,” Petro said, recalling a time Mace broke his leg playing football and rehabbed his way back to the field.

Mace was born April 11, 1988, in Falls Church to Adelson and Larry Mace. He moved to Purcellville with his family as a child.

That was when Purcellville was still a small community, Adelson said, and Mace loved being a part of that.

After attending Loudoun Valley High School from 2003 to 2005, Mace earned his GED and joined the military.

“He had a love for his country, and for as long as I can remember, since he was little, he wanted to be in the military,” Adelson said.

Mace began his current tour in Afghanistan in May, but came home in August for 15 days of leave.

Adelson said he was anxious to get back and serve with his comrades.

“Those were his brothers,” she said.

She described the battle that took Mace's life, saying the soldiers were ambushed by about 200 Taliban.

Mace and his fellow soldiers fought very hard, she said, adding that some who were injured would not go to the hospital because they wanted to stay with their comrades.

“Those boys fought to the bitter end,” Adelson said.

Aside from his love of country, community and family, Mace had a passion for wildlife.

From age 16 to 18, he spent summers in South Africa on safari with a friend.

“Being only 21 years old, he probably did more than many of us will our entire lifetime,” Adelson said.

Petro described Mace as handsome, smart, funny and kind.

“He was a good kid, and everyone enjoyed being part of his life and having him in their lives,” Petro said.

Mace's body was the fourth to come off the plane in Delaware, Petro said, describing how hard it is to absorb everything that has happened.

“It just seemed like it was a nightmare,” he said.

Mace's survivors also include his stepfather, Richard Adelson; his stepmother, Deb Mace; three brothers, Matthew, Bradley and Christopher Mace; his grandmother, Kay Petro; and several aunts and uncles.

Memorial donations may be sent to Project Healing Waters at

Mace will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The family is asking community members to show their support by being at the Leesburg Executive Airport when Mace's body arrives there on its way to Purcellville.

6 October 2009:

This week, the war in Afghanistan hit home in Loudoun. It was a somber day today for Purcellville and Loudoun Valley High School, as the news continued to spread among friends, residents and students of 21-year-old Army Specialist Stephan L. Mace's death in Afghanistan.

The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed this afternoon that the Purcellville area man was among the eight soldiers killed in Saturday's heavy fighting in the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. Mace served with the 4th Brigade Combat Team stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Flags flew at halfstaff on all Purcellville town properties Tuesday in honor of Mace's service and Mayor Bob Lazaro said they would stay there until Mace was interred. Mace's body was returned to Dover Air Force Base Tuesday. Hall Funeral Home is handling the funeral arrangements, which have not been finalized.

Mace attended Loudoun Valley High School from 2003-2005, emerging as a junior and earning a G.E.D. This morning's Minute of Silence at the school was dedicated to the young soldier, according to Assistant Principal Sam Gross.

Mace had an affinity for the military, Gross said. “He was very passionate about it, and I have no doubt he [earned his G.E.D.] to expedite his path to the military,” he said, noting that Mace lost no time in enlisting. His younger brother, Chris, has also signed up for military duty.

Mace also had a love of history, in which he excelled, Gross said. “It matched his love of the military,” he said, calling a Mace well-liked and even-keeled student.

Today, two brothers who grew up with the Mace family down the street in the Kingsbridge area of Purcellville recalled Mace and his love of dirt bike riding.

The older of the two, Casey Chapman, now 25, called Mace a really outgoing person. “He loved life, he was always active and loved motocross races.” Mace was always ready to compete, and was good at it. “But he was never cocky, Casey said.

Recalling Mace's love of sports, Casey Chapman remembered some energetic games of “roller hockey in the cul-de-sac.” Eventually, the Mace family left Kingsbridge and moved out to the north of Purcellville along Rt. 690.

Casey's brother, Sam, was closer in age to Mace, being only two years older, and Casey said the two would go dirt bike riding. “Stephan looked up to [Sam] and ran around with him a lot,” Casey said.

“He was our neighbor. We lived on the same street for six years, and from first to sixth grade, we grew up together,” Sam recalled.

“He loved to race dirt bikes, and he was very good at it-in the top 10 in the nation,” he said. “He was a good kid, very outgoing. Even when he was 8 years old, he'd go 40 miles on a dirt bike.”

“He was really fun and very active,” Sam Chapman said, remembering how Mace went on safari to Africa and loved exploring and finding new things.

Although Sam went to college and Mace went into the military, the two friends kept in touch. “I've known him longer than anyone else in Loudoun County. All my childhood memories are of him. We'd catch up and we'd get on the same page,” Chapman said.

When Mace came home a couple of months ago, returning a few weeks ago to Afghanistan, the two talked. Before the news was confirmed this afternoon that Mace was one of the eight U.S. soldiers killed Saturday in the insurgent raid, Sam said would not be surprised to know he had been killed at that base from Mace's description.

“He said it was in a valley, on low ground, and it was a scary situation.”

“I knew he didn't feel safe or confident there. He talked of being in gun battles and it was almost as if he knew it [the attack] was a big possibility.”

But Mace had signed up for the army. “This is for real,” he had said.

A Loudoun County family just got the knock on the door you never hope to get when you have a child in the military.

Larry and Deb Mace found out at 5:15 a.m. Sunday that 21-year-old Stephan Mace would not be coming home from Afghanistan. Mace, a scout for the 361st Calvary, was one of eight U.S. soldiers killed in an ambush by 200 Taliban last weekend.

“Knowing my son, he fought up to the last minute,” Larry Mace says.

And while the reality of his death begins to sink in, his family is hoping this exuberant young man–who loved motocross, hunting on safaris in Africa and especially his family– did not die in vain.

“We hope there is a clear mission, and that these soldiers have to tools they need to do what they're asked to do,” Deb Mace says.

His mother, Vanessa Adelson of Purcellville, is hoping the town will turn out at the Leesburg Executive Airport when his body is flown in from Dover, Delaware.

The flight should happen within the next week and will be announced in local newspapers.

Mace will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on October 19, 2009.

Decorated Loudoun soldier buried in Arlington National Cemetery
By Yamiche Alcindor
Courtesy of The Washington Post
Monday, October 19, 2009

On a bright sunny day a few years ago, Stephan L. Mace, then just starting high school, spent more than three hours at Arlington National Cemetery admiring the tombs and stopping at several fallen soldiers' graves.

“He was intent the whole time he was there,” his grandmother Kay Petro remembered. Mace had asked her and his grandfather to take him on the trip. “He was so impressed. He took his time — didn't rush. He read and looked and watched.”

Monday, family and friends gathered at the cemetery to say goodbye to 21-year-old Specialist Stephan L. Mace. He was among eight soldiers killed Oct. 3 in Kamdesh, Afghanistan, during an attack on U.S. forces by the Taliban.

His mother, Vanessa Adelson, sat just a few feet away from her son's final resting place, an oak-colored coffin with gold handles. “He had the best sense of humor,” she said. “I'm told when things would get rough over there that Stephan would be the first one to make a joke to get people loosened up.”

More than a hundred family members and friends gathered under the sun for the burial. The slightly chilly air carried the deep drums of the United States Army. Nearby, the sounds of shots and music from another funeral seeped into the service. Mace's was one of 30 at Arlington on Monday. He was buried in Section 60, where most veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are buried.

Mace was a member of the Army's 61st Cavalry Regiment and based at Fort Carson, in Colorado Springs. He received six medals including a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a National Defense Service Medal.

Brigadier General Reuben Jones, who leads the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, presented several members of Mace's family with folded flags. Stephan's youngest brother Christopher, 17, who just completed Army basic training, will also receive a flag.

The second-eldest of four brothers, Stephan Mace grew up Purcellville and attended Loudoun Valley High School. He left high school early and earned a General Educational Development degree before joining the Army. Throughout his life, Stephan Mace played baseball, basketball and football.

“He would call and say, ‘Are you coming to my games?' I don't think we ever missed a game,” Petro said.

An avid outdoorsman, Stephan Mace spent his summers as a teenager hunting in South Africa with a friend. He enjoyed the sport and learned how to shoot from his father, Larry Mace. The elder Mace said he can still remember teaching his son to fish and watching the young man ride his dirt bike.

Shortly before Stephan Mace reported to Fort Carson, he and his father went camping and hiking in the Colorado mountains. After reaching 11,000 feet it began to snow heavily and Larry Mace had doubts about whether they would be able to reach their 14,000-feet-goal.

“Stephan said, ‘We're going.'

“He carried everything on his back and we got there,” Larry Mace said. “He was driven. That was the kind of kid that he was.”

During his last visit home in March, Stephan Mace told his family that he wanted to go to college and pursue a career working for a government agency. But Mace was also eager to return to his comrades in Afghanistan, his mother said.

“He called them his family,” Adelson said. “He was worried about them.”

That worry remained in the moments before he died, she said. A wounded Mace gave a St. Christopher medal, which his mother had given him for protection, to the captain who was by his side, she said. He wanted the medal to go to his comrades.

To Petro, Arlington is a fitting resting place for her grandson. “He died a hero so he should be buried as a hero and Arlington's the place for that,” Petro said. “He loved his comrades. Most people at Arlington probably had the feeling — that love.”

U.S. Army Specialist Stephan Mace is carried in a casket to his funeral by members of the U.S. Army's 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia October 19, 2009
U.S. Army Specialist Stephan Mace is carried in a casket to his funeral by members of the U.S. Army's 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia October 19, 2009
Members of the U.S. Army's 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment fold the flag that covered the casket of U.S. Army Specialist Stephan Mace during his funeral in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia October 19, 2009
A member of the U.S. Army's 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment touches a folded flag on the casket of U.S. Army Specialist Stephan Mace before presenting it to a family member during his funeral in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia October 19, 2009
Vanessa Adelson (R) blows a kiss to the casket containing her son, U.S. Army Specialist Stephan Mace, at his funeral in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, October 19, 2009



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