Stovall remembered for smile, sense of humor
Thursday, August 26, 2004 3:00 AM
As of early Tuesday comments, testimonials and stories about 2nd Lt. Matthew R. Stovall were being relayed from friends, family and colleagues as they remembered the 25-year-old who was killed in Iraq over the weekend.
Most remembered the big toothy smile they found in all his pictures and his positive outlook on life.
Others say he was helpful beyond any normal call, going out of his way to aid friends in need or make them feel better when they were down and out.
One college friend remembered him helping her after running out of gas at 2 a.m., while a former roommate commented on the way he always seemed to be the last one to bed at night and the first one awake in the morning, always anxious to start a new day.
On The Neshoba Democrat web site several friends and military colleagues stationed in Iraq emailed comments about Stovall remembering him again as a positive leader everyone got along with — always quick to crack a joke, but serious and thorough when it came to the job of serving his country.
Following are a number of stories and comments compiled in interviews and emails about Stovall:
Big sister remembers her ‘baby’ brother
Marsha Stovall Vance remembers her “baby” brother Matt standing in the driveway crying as she left for college years ago. She said he never was afraid to show his emotions.
In a telephone interview with a Neshoba Democrat reporter Marsha said her family was still in a state of shock Monday as they visited Matt’s wife Natalie in Southaven, a day after hearing about his death in Iraq.
“He was just our hero,” she said. “Full of life, always happy and believed in what he was doing.”
Marsha said the family had been digging up pictures of Matt since they heard the news and that they couldn’t find one where he was not smiling ear to ear.
“That’s just Matt,” she kept saying, explaining how happy he always was and how he tried to keep everyone laughing.
Even while overseas Marsha 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.”
Calling Matt the baby in the family, Marsha said he was 10 years younger than she was and that he was always an emotional person, even at a young age.
“I remember leaving for college and him standing in the drive way crying. That’s the other thing about him, he had the biggest heart you’ve ever seen and he didn’t mind expressing that.”
College friend often called Stovall for help
When Huellen Nutt of Morton ran out of gas at 2 a.m. while she was in college she didn’t have to hesitate wondering who to call. Matt Stovall was always ready to help.
“He was our protector,” Nutt said of Stovall who lived “across the way” from her and two roommates when they were going to Mississippi State together. “We were three girls stuck up there without our daddies and he would do anything in the world for any of us.”
Nutt said the two met when they played on the East Central Community College tennis team together, then when they both, along with several other friends, went to MSU and lived in the same apartment complex.
Following his death, Nutt remembered calling Stovall early one morning when she ran out of gas, saying it just showed what kind of person he was.
“He told me ‘when the light comes on red it’s time to get more gas, Huellen,’” she said, chuckling at the memory. “Then he took me to fill my tank up. You could always depend on Matt.”
She said her two roommates and his roommates would swap out cooking for each other and generally hung out together. Matt had a key to her apartment just in case they needed anything.
“He fixed broken furniture, hung pictures on our walls, just about everything,” she said. “He was one in a million. I can’t imagine living the rest of my life without Matt being a part of it.”
Gen. Cross visits family
Mississippi Adjutant General Harold A. Cross visited with the family of Lt. Matt Stovall in Philadelphia Sunday evening calling the recently deceased guardsman “a true American hero.”
Cross called his death a blow not only to Neshoba County and his immediate family, but also to the state and the country as well.
“Matt was a tremendous young officer, a loving husband and father and of course our prayers go out to his family,” Cross said Monday. “He gave his life in service to his country.
“This type of thing is always terrible,” he continued. “You can always replace equipment, but not human life.”
Cross said this death, the fourth Mississippi National Guardsman so far, was especially hard because it is the second from the Neshoba County-based 367th Maintenance Co.
He said everyone should remember that we are still at war and to keep all the soldiers in their daily thoughts and prayers.
“Our National Guard soldiers usually come from our most rural areas and their lives are far reaching and touch so many,” Cross said. “They are the heart and soul of our state and we are always devastated when we lose one of them.”
Gov. Haley Barbour also spoke with the family Sunday night.
Fellow Guard members post web comments
As of early Tuesday afternoon several fellow guard members had posted comments praising 2nd Lt. Matt Stovall on The Neshoba Democrat web site.
Calling him a “great leader” and friend, most took the time to tell a little bit about their fallen comrade, but also offered their prayers and condolences to his family.
“He was the best officer we had with us in the 367th or any other unit here that I have convoyed with,” Sgt. Christopher A. Nobles wrote. “‘All gave some, but he gave all.’”
Philadelphia native Spc. Alex Dees wrote, “I will always have memories of all 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 the time, he was so proud of him.”
Sgt. Lance Duncan who served with Matt’s brother Mark in the 298th Corps Battalion offered this note of encouragement to the family, “Matt had strong convictions, and he stuck to them. That was one of his qualities which made him an outstanding leader and great friend. I just want his family to know how much Matt was loved by all here and that during this time our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
Lt. Stovall was just one of the guys
Even though Lt. Matt Stovall was his platoon leader, SPC Fredrick McBride said he didn’t see him that way.
“We didn’t see him as our platoon leader or as Lt. Stovall, he was just one of the guys,” McBride said from his home in Kosciusko where he was spending a short leave from Iraq this week before being shipped back at the end of the month.
“Matt always liked to joke and play tricks on people,” McBride said. “He was a real fun-loving guy, but when it came down to doing his job he was all business.”
McBride said he was saddened when Stovall was transferred from the 367th to the 401st Transportation Co. earlier this year saying he didn’t get to work or see him as much.
He said the last time he saw Stovall was sometime last month on the way to the Mess Hall, for “chow.”
“Me and two more people from the 367th were going to the chow hall and he was coming from it,” McBride said. “We all stopped and talked to him and told him he was being a stranger. He told us he was so busy he hardly got time to come see us any more and that he was on convoys all the time now.”
McBride played on the 367th’s basketball team with Stovall saying it was a great way for them to take their minds off things. He said Stovall was an enthusiastic athlete, sometimes too enthusiastic.
“I remember one time he went up for a dunk or lay up and jumped from the free throw line,” McBride said. “He didn’t quite make it. We laughed at him all night about that one.”
Former employer remembers ‘friend’
Even though it’s been over three years since Matt Stovall has worked in his store Steve Wilkerson said his former employee wasn’t one they could easily forget.
Wilkerson said Matt always took the time to stop in and check on everyone and he was such a likable person he liked to do the same whenever he got the chance.
Calling him a former employee and “friend,” Wilkerson said you couldn’t get much better than Matt Stovall.
“I have to say Matt was as enjoyable an employee I’ve ever had,” Wilkerson said. “He was a fine young man and always had a big smile on his face.
“If you told a corny joke he would laugh at it just as hard as if you told him a funny one,” he added.
Wilkerson said Stovall could always be depended on for a joke at the right minute and was a joy to work with. But added that he was serious when he needed to be and always got the job done.
Wilkerson said he felt Stovall was doing what he loved to do and respected him for his service to the country.
“He always loved the military and always wanted to talk about it to anyone who came in the store,” he said. “I truly believe he was doing what he wanted to do, which was serve his country.”
Wrestling was king in Stovall’s dorm room
After living with Matt Stovall as a roommate at East Central Community College Justin Rogers of Morton remembers him as one never to miss out on anything — always the last to go to bed and the first one up in the morning.
“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.”
Rogers met Stovall and Philadelphia-native Doug Graham at ECCC his freshman year and shared a suite with them. He said you couldn’t have asked for a better roommate than Stovall who he called a fanatic for wrestling.
“Monday night was wrestling night in our dorm and you didn’t change the channel unless you wanted Stovall to put one of his wrestling moves on you,” Rogers said.
“Sometimes you’d be half asleep and you’d feel something hit you and it would be Stovall jumping off the top bunk onto you, laughing the whole time. That was just him, always full of life, a bundle of energy.”
Rogers hadn’t seen Stovall much since they parted ways after ECCC, but kept in touch through friends. The last time he saw him was the 2003 Fair before he was deployed, but said Stovall hadn’t changed a bit.
“He looked and acted the same,” he said. “Same personality, always shaking hands and slapping people on the back.”
Former NCHS teammates remember Stovall
Having known him almost all his life, Nick Sharp considered Matt Stovall one of his best friends.
“I grew up with him,” Sharp said. “We had sleep overs, played baseball with him, went to school with him, graduated with him. He was one of my best friends.”
Sharp and Stovall both played on the Neshoba Central High School baseball team and graduated in 1997 from the school.
Like most who knew him, Sharp said Stovall was always a happy person, looking to make people laugh and always greeting them with a big toothy smile.
“He was always real outgoing and super nice,” he said. “Matt never went out to harm anybody. He was always smiling ... that’s Matt. Always smiling.”
Jason Willis met Matt Stovall on the little league baseball field when they were about 7-years-old and graduated with him and Sharp after also playing on the NCHS baseball team.
Willis said you could always depend on Matt to say hello if you ran into him and also commented on him smiling all the time.
He went on to say that he was a real peacekeeper during high school, always making the best of a bad situation.
“He always tried to make everything better,” 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.”
Both friends said the death hits home during a time when they admit to not thinking about the war with Iraq as much as they used to.
“You see this stuff on the news every day, but what happened to Josh (Ladd) and Matt puts things into perspective,” Willis said.
He loved being a leader
SPC Yolanda Johnson of the 367th said: “Lt. Matt Stovall was a great leader. He will always be a part of the 367th Maintenance Company family. I know that death is something that one cannot predict, but we know that Lt Stovall carried on with the mission that he was given, because he loved being on the road and he loved being a leader. He will never be forgotten. It may be hard to believe at a time like this, but my mother always tells me that the Lord never makes mistakes. He just took another one of his angels home. I’ll miss you lieutenant, but I’ll never forget you.