The nation was shocked on November 15, when the grisly news spread that a train struck a parade float carrying wounded veterans in Midland, Texas. As awful as that was, the story shifted closer to home when Freedom Alliance team member Pepper Ailor got word from a friend on the scene that Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Stouffer was one of the four service members killed in the accident.
CWO Gary had attended several Freedom Alliance events in the past—always with his son Shane—becoming a friendly face and a familiar personality in our goings-on. Recently he participated in a dove hunt in September, as well as a deer hunt just two weekends prior to the tragedy.
Having joined the Marines while enrolled at West Virginia University, Gary served in Albania, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and twice in Iraq during the past 17 years. On a resupply mission in Afghanistan, his convoy came up against a complex attack, and Gary’s vehicle was hit by multiple IED blasts. He finished his tour but later discerned severe consequences from the explosions, eventually being diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and compression fractures in his neck and back. Gary was under the care of several doctors and taking therapy to improve his speech and mobility.
He was hoping to retire in two years, after 20 years of service in the United States Marine Corps. He was married to his wife Catherine for sixteen years, and they have two children, Shannon (16) and Shane (12).
Despite anxiety disorders, PTSD, and physical disabilities, Gary was always ready and willing to participate in an outdoor sporting event with Freedom Alliance.
Gary wrote the following for the Show of Support website: “I have always enjoyed the outdoors and how it makes me feel. I can still remember each trip afield with my father as a little boy in a rural town in Pennsylvania. Throughout my career, I have made it a point to never lose this great passion no matter where I may get stationed. It has always been a dream of mine to hunt in Texas….”
Gary was in Texas for a hunt when the accident happened. He and his son Shane were also registered for a Freedom Alliance hunt this weekend in Louisburg, North Carolina.
Last night, event volunteers and service members gathered for the hunt held a moment of reflection in Gary’s memory.
In attendance was Matt, a medically retired Airman, who has become a frequent participant in Freedom Alliance events when Gary introduced him to us at a turkey hunt in April.
“If it weren’t for Gary,” he said, “I wouldn’t have met Freedom Alliance.”
Those who knew Gary understand that a tragedy may have taken his life, but his spirit lives on. And it’s a spirit not easily forgotten.
We at Freedom Alliance pledge today to honor his memory by honoring his passion … and we will honor his service by serving his comrades.
Gary and Shane, this one is for you.
If you would like to contribute to help the Stouffer family through this tragic time, please send donations to:
Gary Stouffer Memorial Fund • P.O. Box 487 • Hubert, NC, 28539