Among family members of First Lt. Matt Stovall in attendence at the remembrance were, first row, from left, Olivia Vance, Byron McClellan, Kaley Stovall, Will Frady, Waker Stovall, Natalie Stovall Frady and Bryce Richardson. Second row, Burgin McClellan, Cathy Tolbert, Jackson Vance, Marsha Vance, Catherine Hardy, Jill Luber, Ellon Stovall, Buck Stovall, Robin McClellan and Randy McClellan. In back are Jason Richardson, Shelton Vance and Howard Frady.
Among family members of First Lt. Matt Stovall in attendence at the remembrance were, first row, from left, Olivia Vance, Byron McClellan, Kaley Stovall, Will Frady, Waker Stovall, Natalie Stovall Frady and Bryce Richardson. Second row, Burgin McClellan, Cathy Tolbert, Jackson Vance, Marsha Vance, Catherine Hardy, Jill Luber, Ellon Stovall, Buck Stovall, Robin McClellan and Randy McClellan. In back are Jason Richardson, Shelton Vance and Howard Frady.
Ten years after the death of 1st Lt. Matthew Ryan Stovall in Iraq, the Stovall's Sacrifice for Soldiers Foundation brought its annual remembrance to Philadelphia last weekend.

The Stovall family's casualty assistance officer cited the lieutenant's leadership abilities, which earned him the trust and respect of his fellow soldiers.

At the time of Stovall's death, the 401st Transport Company to which Stovall was attached, wrote tributes via e-mail for the family illustrating his leadership.

SPC Keaton Eliot Nielsen of the 401st Transport Company, wrote of Stovall, his new and very much in demand platoon leader.

"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," he said.

One soldier wrote that there were military leaders he would not follow through a Wal-Mart, but he'd follow Stovall anywhere.

Stovall, 25, was killed Aug. 22, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq, when a roadside bomb exploded as the convoy in which he was riding passed.

He was a member of the National Guard's 367th Maintenance Co.

The remembrance included a golf tournament and tribute service on Friday with the Steps for Stovall 5K concluding the weekend on Saturday.

The foundation has organized the Steps for Stovall 5K for the last three years in Southaven, but this is the first time a golf tournament has been incorporated into the weekend.

Natalie Stovall Frady, his widow who has since remarried, organized the event and wanted to do something special for the 10th year anniversary.

"This is our first ever golf tournament, but the foundation is in its fourth year," Frady said. "This is the 10th anniversary, and we wanted to bring it to Philadelphia where his family and many of his friends could attend. That's the main reason why we've brought it down here."

While the golf tournament and 5K were fun events, the tribute service reminded spectators what the weekend was all about, organizers said.

The service commemorated Stovall and Sgt. Joshua Shane Ladd, another Philadelphia who died while in Iraq, as well as the National Guard's 298th, 367th, and 401st units who served in Iraq.

Ladd, 20, was killed in May 2004 when hostile forces ambushed his convoy and a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle in Iraq. He was a member of the Guard's 298th Corps Support Battalion.

Col. Scott Hubbard, who was the casualty assistance officer to the Stovall family following his death, spoke during Friday's tribute.

"A decade ago, I came to Philadelphia to work with the Stovalls after Matt was killed," Hubbard said. "That wasn't my first relationship with the Stovalls. I was fortunate enough to serve with [his brother] Mark and Matt in the 298th when I was with them for about six years.

"The thing about the Stovall family is that they made me welcome and I could come eat supper with them, go fishing with them, and everything. It was a friendship that was developed, and I watched two young soldiers turn into strong leaders in their unit."

Hubbard reiterated his close ties with the Stovall family throughout his speech.

"Losing Matt was the closest thing I knew to losing a child," he said. "That's how close of a relationship I had with the Stovalls. But the unique thing about the Stovall boys is that they became leaders that the soldiers that served with them trusted, respected. The main thing they knew is that they had their back."

Hubbard presented Frady and their son, Walker, with a medallion with Matt's name engraved on the back. Afterwards, Frady addressed the crowd of nearly 100 people, recalling memories of her time with Matt.

"We met at Mississippi State in September of 2000, and his smile got me," she said. "I know so many people talk about his smile, and I could tell that he lit up the world of so many.

"My fondest time was when we moved to Virginia for five months for his officer basic course. I didn't know if I could survive. I always lived right by my family, and we were moving 19 hours away. We had his Chevrolet truck packed down with tarps blowing and an eight-week-old baby. Those five months we had to depend on each other, and we grew so much as a family. I look back now and I cherish every moment of it."

The golf tournament earlier that morning saw 30 teams sign up in three different flights at Philadelphia Country Club. Winners included the teams of Joe Rush and Don Culpepper in the championship flight, Richard Eakes and Virginia Wells in the first flight and Josh Cherry and Ike Melton in the second flight.

The next morning, 150 runners braved hot and humid temperatures to participate in the Steps for Stovall 5K. Preston Breazeale finished first in the kids 15-18 year old division and with the fastest time overall at 18:13.7. Other first place finishers were Anthony Steele and John Wilkerson in the men's division with a time of 21:45.2, Johnna Agent in the women's division with a time of 24:30, and Dallas Stricker in the kids 10-14 year old division with a time of 22:39.9.

Frady was overwhelmed with the outpouring encouragement Philadelphia provided throughout the weekend. She expected a solid turnout, but didn't anticipate the sheer volume of supporters.

"What has been absolutely amazing is the support," Frady said. "For this to be the first ever event in Philadelphia that we've had, we have seen more support down here than we have in Southaven.

"I knew it would be that way just because of the closeness of the community and the impact Matt made on so many people during his years in Philadelphia.

" It's just nice to know that people care, and people still remember him after 10 years and want to support the cause."

Stovall's Sacrifice for Soldiers is a non-profit organization established in 2011 to help provide financial assistance to families of military men and women as well as carry on the memory of Stovall.

In the three years of the Steps for Stovall 5K, the foundation has raised over $36,000 for various causes.

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.I n the spring of 2002, he 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.