Fort Benning Ranger among first combat-related deaths in war on terror

The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionSeptember 11, 2011 

Editor’s Note: This story was provided through the Georgia Newspaper Partnership, of which the Ledger-Enquirer is a member.

Today, Ruth Stonesifer plans to visit a nature center near her home in the Philadelphia area and wander the paths her son once traversed.

She’ll rest on a bench dedicated to his memory and reminisce about the vegan philosophy student who died defending his country.

Pfc. Kristofor Stonesifer, 28, was an unlikely warrior. Pushing 27, he enlisted in the Army, partly a patriotic surge, partly a spiritual challenge. He was one of the first two combat-related deaths in the U.S. war on terror. He and Spc. Jonn Edmunds, 20, both Fort Benning Rangers, were killed 38 days after the 9/11 attacks when their unit’s Black Hawk helicopter crashed near the Afghanistan border.

Ruth Stonesifer has served as president of the American Gold Star Mothers, an organization of women whose sons and daughters have been killed in military service. She was invited to 9/11 commemorations but declined.

“I’m honored Kris has been remembered, but it’s their day, the victims of 9/11,” she said.

Edmunds’ father, Donn, a Vietnam vet who had 28 years Army service, had a similar feeling.

“Sept. 11 was a horrible time. But, for our family, it was Oct. 19, 2001,” he said. That was the day, he said, when ground zero came to Cheyenne, Wyo., the family’s hometown. So far, there have been more than 6,100 military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to The Associated Press. Edmunds called them “6,000 smaller ground zeroes around the country.” 

Edmunds spent time in counter-terrorism in the military and is still amazed by the success of the terrorists’ mission.

“It was masterfully done; it was cheap and efficient,” he said. “Look what 19 men have done to the U.S. It has changed everything about America.” 

But, while it changed America, “I don’t think the average American has made any sacrifice,” he said. “One percent of the population (who are in the military) is bearing the sacrifice. That 1 percent has suffered a loss.” 

And he worries that service and sacrifice is being forgotten. “My son and Kris were international news,” he said. “But now, (soldiers’) deaths are barely local news.”

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