'Remembrance weekend' set for Stovall
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 1:00 AM
A "remembrance weekend" is planned later this month in honor of First Lt. Matthew Ryan Stovall, 25, who was killed in Iraq in August 2004 when a roadside bomb exploded as the convoy in which he was riding passed.
Natalie Stovall Frady and son Walker.
Stovall was a member of the National Guard's 367th Maintenance Company.
"Stovall's Sacrifice for Soldiers Remembrance Weekend" is set for Friday, Aug. 22.
The event - the brainchild of Stovall's wife, Natalie Stovall Frady, - will begin at 8 a.m. with a 5K run/walk starting at the National Guard armory on 911 Herman Alford Memorial Highway.
The weekend will also feature a golf tournament at the Philadelphia Country Club and a remembrance and tribute to the 401st, 367th and 298th Guard units at Coldwater Cemetery on Mississippi 21 south where Stovall is buried.
Stovall and his wife have one son, Walker.
Frady said she often wondered how Matt would have been honored if he had returned home from his Iraq deployment.
"Military men and women all deserve to be honored for their bravery and the sacrifices they make for American civilians to live their daily lives and enjoy our freedom," she said.
She created Stovall's Sacrifice for Soldiers, a non-profit organization whose mission is to offer financial assistance to military men and women defending their country and to carry on the memory of 1st Lt. Stovall.
Now in its fourth year, Frady decided to make a few changes and bring the event to Stovall's hometown. It had previously been held in Southaven, where they were living before his deployment.
For the past three years many in Philadelphia have asked for the event to be relocated here, she said.
Many of the men in Matt's 401st unit told her they have not been able to pay their final respects yet, Frady said.
"We're hoping for a big turnout," she said.
The idea for the event came to Frady during a book club meeting with friends.
"I thought 'It's time to do something,'" she said.
Initially the plan was to just hold a 5K.
"Matt loved to run," she said. "He would leave me in the dust and now when I run I think about him."
This year they have added a golf tournament and the event at Coldwater Cemetery.
The money raised each year goes towards a charity honoring the troops and their families.
In 2011, $9,000 in proceeds were donated to Snowball Express, which creates a weekend of events to connect the children and surviving spouses of fallen soldiers with others going through the same experience.
In 2012, the proceeds sponsored a three-day guided hunt at Tara Wildlife in Vicksburg for Mississippi's Iraq and Afghanistan heroes.
This was repeated in 2013.
Proceeds from this year's event will go towards a Weekend for Warriors in Biloxi.
Each year has seen the event get bigger with more proceeds being raised.
"We've seen some growth but we're not as big as some groups," Frady said. "My idea has always been that once Walker gets older he would take over."
Walker, 12, also gets involved.
This year he will have a spot set up where friends of his father can tell him their stories of father.
"Walker reminds me of Matt," Frady said. "He would be so proud of his son."
Walker said he enjoys hearing about his father.
"I think its awesome carrying on his name," he said.
Stovall joined the Mississippi National Guard before he graduated Neshoba Central High School in 1997 and served in numerous capacities during his enlisted years. He completed Officer Candidate School in 2001. Stovall then completed his Officer Basic Course in Fort Eustis, Va. in 2002.
In the spring of 2002, Stovall married his college sweetheart, Natalie. In September 2003, he left his family to serve with the 367th Maintenance Company in Mosul, Iraq.
While in Iraq, Stovall was chosen to lead the 1st Platoon of the 401st Transportation Company, affectionately known as "The A Team."
On Aug 22, 2004, just two months before Stovall was due to return home and on Natalie's 22nd birthday, she received the call that he had been fatally wounded while serving in Iraq.
Anyone interested in getting involved or needing additional information can visit stovallsacrificeforsoldiers.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/S4S5K.