2nd Neshoba man dies in Iraq
Thursday, August 26, 2004 3:00 AM
Remembered as an extraordinary leader with a hilarious personality and a broad smile to match, 2nd Lt. Matthew Ryan Stovall died Sunday in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded as the convoy in which he was riding passed. He was 25 and the second Neshoba County native killed in the war.
Matthew Ryan Stovall
1978 — 2004
The convoy was passing near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul when an “improvised explosive device” exploded near his vehicle at about 5 p.m., the U.S. military reported.
Services for Stovall of the Mississippi National Guard’s 367th Maintenance Co., headquartered here, were incomplete.
Stovall’s sister Marsha Vance of Madison said her brother was a passenger in the lead vehicle of a humanitarian convoy transporting supplies.
The improvised devices are often put in the ground by enemy forces and detonated with a cell phone or a similar device when a particular vehicle, usually carrying officers, has been singled out to hit, a family member said.
Vance said the driver in the vehicle was injured but not fatally. Soldiers in one or more vehicles behind were hit by shrapnel and taken to the hospital, she said.
She said her brother was traveling in a Humvee at one time, but had changed to another type of vehicle.
Two Iraqi children were injured in the blast, according to Dr. Mohammed Ahmed of the al-Jumhuri hospital, The Associated Press reported.
Sgt. Joshua S. Ladd of Philadelphia and also of the 367th was killed May 1 in Iraq.
Stovall of Southaven was officially listed as a transportation officer with the 367th, but at the time of the incident was working with the 401st Transportation Co., based out of Florida, according to Mississippi National Guard officials.
He was the son of Buck and Ellon Stovall and is survived also by his wife Natalie, a son Walker, 2, and an older brother, Mark, who was deployed in Iraq as well.
By Tuesday flags at Philadelphia City Hall and the county courthouse were at half staff and the Mayor and Board of Aldermen along with the Board of Supervisors had prepared resolutions in Stovall’s memory.
Four solid black ribbons wrapped the large, white columns of The Neshoba Democrat building downtown.
A 1997 graduate of Neshoba Central High School, Stovall attended East Central Community College and Mississippi State University where he met his wife.
He became a commissioned officer after completing officer candidate school and worked as a dispatcher for Master Mix Concrete while serving part-time in the Guard before being deployed last September.
The couple had lived in his wife’s hometown of Southaven since their wedding three years ago and purchased their first house soon after he was deployed.
Stovall was remembered this week by friends and family mostly for an ever-present smile and the ability to lighten everyone’s mood with a quick joke or hard pat on the back.
Many of those under his command admired his leadership.
“Lt. Stovall was a very professional but down to earth person. When it was time to be professional, he was just that. He was the type of leader that you would not have to second guess his capabilities. His leadership abilities not only showed in his attitude but also in the way he walked, talked, and treated his soldiers,” SPC Yolonda Johnson of the 367th wrote via e-mail from Iraq.
She also thanked the people of Neshoba County for their support and asked for continued prayers.
Back home Stovall was remembered as a friend.
“He always tried to make everything better,” Former Neshoba Central classmate Jason Willis said. “If it was a good situation he would try to make it better and if it was a bad situation he would try and fix it.”
Some who gathered pictures of Stovall commented that they couldn’t find one of him without a huge smile on his face.
One college friend recalled one time when she ran out of gas at 2 a.m., and Stovall coming to her aid without question.
“He would do anything for us,” Huellen Nutt of Morton said.
He loved watching wrestling on television and was known as the early riser among his roommates at college.
Former ECCC roommate Justin Rogers of Morton said he was always the last one to go to bed, but the first one to wake up.
“I’ve never seen anyone who could go to bed at 2 a.m., wake up at 8 a.m., take a shower in five minutes and be ready to go smiling the whole time,” Rogers said. “While all of us were dragging around he was always getting us up to go to class. He was usually the one getting everything started.”
Fellow National Guardsmen stationed in Iraq with Stovall commented on his leadership and the ease with which he dealt with soldiers under his command.
“We didn’t see him as our platoon leader or as Lt. Stovall, he was just one of the guys,” fellow 367th member SPC Fredrick McBride said.
Several servicemen and women stationed overseas sent emails with prayers and words of support for family members as the word of Stovall’s death spread early this week. They all praised him as a wonderful friend and leader. (See story, page 18A.)
One email received from SPC Alex Dees of Philadelphia read:
“Matt Stovall was a great friend and a great leader. I grew up in Philadelphia all of my life knowing him. He was always a lot of fun to be around. When we first got activated and I saw him going with us it was a good feeling, knowing that we would have each other going so far away from home.
“I will always have memories of all of the times that we had together when we were young and while we were over here. He talked and showed pictures of his little boy Walker all of the time, he was so proud of him. I will never forget Matt and nobody will, he had an impact on everybody here and everybody enjoyed being around him. I will miss him so much and can’t believe this happened to such a great guy, he was a one of a kind. I just wanted to let his family know how much Matt meant to us. Our prayer will be with them during this time of need.”
Family members said Stovall was never afraid to express his feelings. His sister Marsha Vance remembers him standing in the driveway crying as he watched her leave for college.
Even while overseas she said her brother tried to cheer their family up, never complaining about his situation. He especially tried to cheer up his wife.
Every time he called home he was singing to her and just trying to make her laugh,” Marsha said. “He never once complained about being over there.”
His parents said their son got a great deal of satisfaction out of helping rebuilding schools and restoring water supplies in Iraq. (See story, page 1A.)
The Walker Stovall Education Fund has been set up with the Citizens Bank in Philadelphia. Contributions may be sent to that fund at P. O. Box 209, Philadelphia, Miss., 39350.
Stovall is the 16th Mississippian to die in Iraq, and the fourth National Guardsman to be killed.
Ladd, 20, was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle, Guard officials said.
Mark Stovall, stationed with the 298th Corps Support Battalion of Philadelphia, was scheduled to be arrive home Tuesday.
All total about 220 soldiers from the Philadelphia area are with the two units in one of the most volatile regions of Iraq known as the Sunni Triangle.