Men of the 401st write to family
Thursday, September 2, 2004 3:00 AM
Among the tributes pouring in from Iraq for 1st Lt. Matthew Ryan Stovall are those from the 401st Transport Company to which he was attached four months ago.
The accounts paint a vivid picture of Stovall, his character, his personality and his devotion, in the days leading up to his death.
The Stovall family received the tributes by e-
The tributes depict Stovall as a strong leader and a friend, while giving intimate accounts of times the soldiers spent together with their new “LT.”
One soldier talks about riding in the cab of a truck with Stovall for hours and enjoying the in-depth conversations they had on their long journeys. Another recounts an ongoing argument the two had over which 80s hard rock band was better — Def Leopard or Poison.
One compelling account describes the first time the unit came under fire during an ambush in Bagdad, recounting Stovall’s bravery as he organized the response and never hesitated to aid the wounded.
Following are the tributes:
SSG Chuck Eichhorst: 1st Lt. Stovall had only been with the 401st Transportation Company for several days when a mission to escort a dozen HET’s (Heavy Equipment Transporters) to Kuwait was posted. He was determined to be on that mission. And I’m glad he was.
The trip to Kuwait was uneventful. I’ve always said that if you want to get to know someone, spend several days riding in the cab of a truck with that person.
As I was one of the Squad leaders, Matt Stovall wanted to know as much as possible about “His” new soldiers. He wanted to know their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes, who they hung around with and what problems they might be having.
We talked for hours on end. We had to. We wanted to. And he made you feel comfortable to talk to.
We discussed our own lives. And we allowed ourselves to open up about what we were missing from back home. After just a couple of hours, I knew that this young lieutenant had what it took to be a great leader. And he would show that in the days to follow.
Our return mission was to assist with bringing our newest platoon north. He volunteered to lead the first serial. We had heard that things were getting “hot” up north.
1st Lt. Stovall made sure that we were ready and had the battle drills down solid. He gave us the confidence that we were ready and that things were okay.
Then we got into the Baghdad area. Immediately a rocket propelled grenade just missed our truck. Matt was leaning out the window suppressing enemy fire and radioing the gun teams to direct their fire.
During the next 90 minutes, we encountered two more ambushes. During the first one, we had to stop to repair tires. The “LT” was right there assisting wherever he was needed and made sure everyone was doing his job.
Soon thereafter, we had mortars dropping around our position. With the LT’s assistance, the gun teams were able to eliminate our latest threat and get back on the road.
Our closest safe-haven was Baghdad International Airport. It also meant driving through the first ambush area again. We made it to the airport without any further damage and no injuries.
Our only injuries were to happen during the first night at the airport when mortars fell into our area wounding three of our guys. Matt was right there coordinating the aid and litter teams and making sure the soldiers were all right.
We made it safely back to Mosul, but it would never have been possible without the leadership of 1st Lt. Matthew Ryan Stovall. He had proved not only to me, but to others that were fortunate to know him, that he had all the qualities of being a great leader. The most important being the compassion that he showed towards his troops.
He came to first platoon as a platoon leader, but left as an older brother to some of the guys and as a great friend for me. He wanted to make the team not just better, but the BEST.
SPC Keaton Eliot Nielsen: The English language, despite its mass vocabulary, has no words that adequately convey the love that 1st Lt. Matthew Stovall had for his platoon, nor the feeling of loss from which we all suffer.
Seldom does the army field such a leader and soldier as 1st Lt. Stovall. His commitment to his country and family are a model by which others should follow and strive to achieve. The love he showed, I know, is a standard by which I will compare all other leaders.
As the “A-Team” platoon leader, Matt was busy and sometimes very difficult to find. The easiest way I found to locate him was to follow the sound of laughter and trail of smiling people and there, in the center of a group of people joking and laughing, would be “LT” wearing a grin.
I could never quite understand how this man, away from his wife and son, could possibly be so happy, but that is how he was. Always with a contagious smile trying to make light of every situation.
I have only been in the army for a few years, but even I know that I will never again have a leader so dedicated. It is my hope that in future years as I mature into leadership positions, that my soldiers will look at me the way that the “A-Team” looked at Matt.
I miss my leader, my friend, and will always remember my time with 1st Lt. Stovall.
SPC Brandon C. Miller: It is hard to believe that only a short time ago I met a person that would influence my life forever. That person was Matthew Ryan Stovall.
Matt was the foundation of the “A Team.” I remember so many times when I would look to Matt for help and advice and he would always have the answer. He was a model soldier for what many troops in our platoon strived to be.
I recall a time when Matt said he would follow us anywhere and we would always do the same for him.
Hard times, long days and challenging moments were not a problem for “LT” and because of his leadership, and the trust we instilled in him, they were not for us either.
August 22, 2004 was a day that changed my life, my platoon and people halfway around the world. We lost a soldier, a leader, a husband, a father, a brother, and a truly great friend.
“LT, you are the show-stopper.”
Sgt. Eric J. Peil: Matt Stovall is a guy you don’t meet everyday. The mold was definitely broken after he was created.
When Matt became the leader of the “A-Team,” four months ago, our platoon had to adapt to a new person. Our platoon is a tight knit family, but it didn’t take long for everyone to warm up to him.
Matt was very forward with his expectations, and they were nothing less than the best, that’s just the way he rolled. I have a lot of admiration for officers that were enlisted. For one, you won’t be able to pull any wool over their eyes because he was once a private, too!
He had qualities of the NCO and officer corps, which is like being the “Superman” of the army.
We have spent a lot of long days on the road together. Anything from fixing flat tires, to unloading a semi load of soda and juice. He led by example, always getting dirty along with his troops.
Command always frowned about officers driving trucks and manning machine guns, but he went against the grain, doing it anyway to show his troops he had what it takes.
Sgt. (Eric) Tissue and myself were his sidekicks. We did almost everything as one. He always knew a light day was ahead for him as long as we were there.
We spent many days in the “A” room talking about life’s plans, accomplishments, great bands of the ‘80s, or our two-hour conversation about Owen’s Corning Shingles, which no one had a clue or interest in it except us.
Matt loved to brag. When we were sitting at the computer and I found out I was getting promoted, he was so excited, everyone on base knew before I could tell the second person.
Everyone knew his platoon, the “A-Team.” For one, it’s spray-painted everywhere you go, but the fact remained that his expectations drove us to be the best. The energy he woke up with everyday was so contagious; you had no choice but to jump on the bandwagon with him.
I would like to personally thank you for sharing such a great man with us. Matt left his mark everywhere he went. He has touched all of us in ways one can never imagine.
He will always have a place in our hearts. Matt Stovall the leader, mentor, and great friend will live forever.
Sgt. Eric Tissue: Matt Stovall was a platoon leader, friend, guide, but above all he was like a brother.
Matt, the platoon leader, had an energy that spread like wild fire. It was easy to go on mission after mission with Matt. He knew as well as I did that us running the Speicher five months straight wasn’t fair, but he would never let the guys get down about it. He knew that we were the best and we were the best because of what he brought to us.
As a friend, I would trust no one more that Matt. He had your back no matter the situation. I gave him 100 percent and he repaid me with 150 percent.
Not too long ago on a convoy, Matt was in the front and I was in the back. The back of the convoy was engaged by the enemy. I was unable to call forward to Matt so he stopped his truck and waited for me to respond. Matt later told me that he was getting ready to come back for me.
Matt excelled at guiding us on convoys. We would go out to a new location with bad strip maps, little Intel and lacking support, but as long as Matt was with me, I knew that we would get there. Being with Matt on most of his convoys taught me a lot and I owe that all to him.
Matt became a brother to me. He would hang out in my room most nights after mission and between missions. Matt made Iraq more enjoyable to me. We did everything possible and bending the rules was a must.
Though Matt’s golf game needed work, he would always be out there with us. Matt brought the fun to a lot of the little things we did like dodge ball, basketball, volleyball. It didn’t matter, it was more fun with Matt.
Matt and I would argue, about the best groups in the ‘80s. He loved Def Leopard, but I couldn’t stand them. I liked Poison, but he wouldn’t let it go without an argument.
Those arguments were great. Matt was easy to get fired up and if anyone said something bad about Mississippi, he was ready to fight. Matt was so loyal to his home and everyone could tell.
I liked picking on Matt, as he did me all the time. Matt would call me and SGT Eric Peil, “E-squared.” I didn’t like it, but then again I would call him “Matty,” and he didn’t like that either.
I’m going to miss 1st Lt. Matt Stovall as a platoon leader, friend and a guide. He will never be replaced with anyone who could compare. Most of all I’m going to miss Matty, the brother, the one who made Iraq seem easy and more enjoyable for all of us.
Chuck “ChuckyDuck” Patterson and so many of his friends: Matthew Ryan Stovall is the type of man who took any situation and made it worthwhile, fun, and adventurous.
Matt is a true hero, courageous and a true leader. His platoon loved him, as did all he met.
He knew no stranger making friends everywhere he went. He earned the trust and respect of all who he came in contact.
Matt was fearless and strong and when things got tough he would keep his cool and show no fear. He could take control of any situation.
Matt faced an obstacle of taking on the 401st Transportation Company, 1st Platoon that would later be called the “A-Team.”
The platoon was rough around the edges but with Matt’s tender care and charismatic smile, they instantly had no qualms about their new leader. Little did they know that the adventure was going to begin.
These men trusted him with their lives. As long as Matt was going on the road, these men, his men, would follow right behind him. They believed and knew that Matt would and did stand and fight.
Matt often commented and believed the saying, “I would not send anyone to do any task, if I had not first tried and accomplished it myself.”
Matt’s heart is full of courage and love for his fellow man. Not once did anyone see him without that big “milk” smile. Even though all the tough jobs were placed at his feet, he kept the morale of his troops high.
His platoon has put thousands and thousands of miles on the road. He is a hard charger full of life despite the workload and responsibilities.
Matt is the kind of being and leader each person needs to emulate and no one will ever fill his shoes.
He loved life, his job, his duties, his men. It has been my honor and pleasure to be blessed with such a wonderful gift of a man, Matthew Ryan Stovall. I along with SO many would follow him to the ends of the earth. That is how much faith, hope, trust and confidence this man showed and shared with us.
I love him and will miss him dearly. I love you, Matt, my friend.