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If you’re sick of hearing about the “balloon boy” drama/hoax, please make sure to read this touching story about Spc. Stephan Mace, 21, who – along with 7 other soldiers serving alongside him – was KIA in Afghanistan earlier this month by the Taliban during a battle that lasted 12 hours. It’s a melt-your-heart and make-you-cry tribute to both him and his journey home -a journey on which his mother joined him. Snippets:
PURCELLVILLE, Virginia (CNN) — When the Army flew home the body of Spc. Stephan Mace from Afghanistan, his mother climbed aboard a small jet with the flag-draped coffin for the last leg of his trip.
Vanessa Adelson would not let her 21-year-old son make his final journey home alone.
“I brought him into this world, and he was my baby,” she said. “I thought it was my responsibility as a mother to bring him home.”
Mace and seven other soldiers were killed this month in a Taliban attack on their remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan, making it the deadliest battle for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since July 2008.
Three days after the deadly fight, Mace’s mother attended the Dignified Transfer of her son, then returned home with him from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Since May, Mace had been on his first deployment in Afghanistan, following a childhood dream of joining the Army. He planned to continue his career in service after his Army stint by joining the Department of Homeland Security or the CIA, his mother said.
Instead, he will be buried Monday in Arlington National Cemetery.
Back in Mace’s small, tight-knit community in Purcellville, Virginia, many found it hard to believe the solemn military procession through the center of town earlier this month was the last they would ever see of their friend.
“If I could describe Stephan, I would picture him flying through the air on a dirt bike living his life on the edge,” said Sam Chapman, childhood friend and football buddy. “If more people in this country had the passion and the determination and the courage that Stephan had, it would without a doubt be a better place. He was just a great guy.”
Mace was awarded six medals for his service, including a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. But for his mother, the most precious is the medal of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, that her son wore into battle.
She gave him the medal when he was 15 and preparing for a trip to South Africa. Now, after speaking to one of Mace’s friends who survived the outpost attack, Adelson knows her son reached for that medal in his last moments. She was told that in his last moments alive, Mace took off his medal and gave it to his fellow soldiers.
“That’s how Stephan was,” Adelson said. “Here this kid is dying, and he was more worried about the other soldiers that he took his St. Christopher off and gave it to them.”
Read the whole thing (and watch the video here). Make sure to have some Kleenex tissues handy.