La Grande soldier dies in Iraq

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: March 17. 2007 5:00AM PST

A U.S. Army soldier from La Grande with ties to Prineville was killed in Iraq early Thursday morning, his family said.

Sgt. 1st Class John S. Stephens, who was born in Prineville, was in a Humvee that drove over a land mine, his sister said. She added that Stephens suffered severe chest injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

The family first learned of the death last night from Stephens’ wife, who lives in Germany. They also received confirmation from the military Friday, his sister said.

Military representatives could not be reached for independent confirmation.

Stephens is the 83rd service member either from Oregon or with strong ties to Oregon who has died in the war in Iraq as of 8 p.m. Friday, according to Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s Web site.

He is the 40th Army soldier with ties to Oregon who has lost his life in the war.

Stephens, 43, lived in Prineville until he was 3 years old, when the family moved to La Grande, his father, Gene Stephens said. Gene Stephens added that he grew up in Prineville and graduated from Crook County High School.

John S. Stephens, who went by his middle name, Scott, leaves behind three children and three grandchildren, his family said. His oldest son, who lives in Alabama, is also in the military, and his daughter is married to a man in the military and lives in North Carolina, his sister said.

He was a career-military man who had been deployed to Iraq four times, once during Desert Storm and three times in the current conflict, and had also served in Bosnia and Cambodia, his father said.

“He was 500 percent Army and he thought that what he was doing was good, it was something that would help the Iraqi people, and he went over there with a positive attitude,” Gene Stephens said.

His sister, Michelle, described him as an outdoorsman who was “liked by everybody.”

“I got an e-mail from him about a week ago – he was going to retire – and he told me not many people in their life get to do a job for 20 years that they absolutely love, and he did, he had that opportunity,” she said.

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