CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The two U.S. soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Pakistan had much in common: They were mature, focused, primed for action and extremely proud to be Army Rangers.
Pfc. Kristofor T. Stonesifer, 28, of Missoula, Mont., and Spc. Jonn J. Edmunds, 20, of Cheyenne, Wyo., were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed Friday.
The deaths bring to three the number of U.S. servicemen killed since the military campaign against the Al Qaeda terror network and the ruling Taliban militia began Oct. 7.
Stonesifer and Edmunds served with the 75th Ranger Regiment based at Fort Benning, Ga. The first American soldier killed in the anti-terrorism campaign was killed in a forklift accident in Qatar.
Cheyenne East High social studies teacher Wayne Korhonen remembers Edmunds from a psychology class as a quiet but excellent and popular student.
"He had this incredibly dry sense of humor," he said. "He would straight-face these one-liners sometimes that would really make you laugh."
Korhonen last saw Edmunds at Christmas Eve 1999 church services.
"He was, as always, very positive and very sure of himself and what he was doing and the direction he was going," he said. "He was looking forward to becoming a Ranger."
John Steichen, whose son, Jamie, had played paintball and lifted weights with Edmunds, said he had spoken on the phone with his son's friend a few weeks ago.
Steichen said Edmunds, whose father was in the Army, was always in a good mood. He wanted to be a Ranger and "wanted to be where the action was," Steichen said. "He was ready. He didn't regret being in, I know that."
If he had to die, he would have wanted to die fighting, Steichen said.
Edmunds participated in American Legion's Boys State in 1998, a prestigious program offering student leaders government skills, and joined the Future Business Leaders of America his senior year. He graduated in 1999.
Stonesifer quit ROTC last year because it wasn't tough enough for him and enlisted in the Army instead.
"He wanted to be the best soldier in the U.S. Army, and the best soldiers in the Army are in the Ranger battalion," said Lt. Col. Jim Clegg, head of the ROTC program at the University of Montana, where Stonesifer went to school.
He joined the program at the Missoula campus in August 1999 and continued until his enlistment in May 2000, Clegg said.
"He was a very mature and focused young man, one of my top two cadets in a very challenging year, that's the junior year in an ROTC program," Clegg said. "He was a little older, and he had been around a little bit. He made better decisions than some of the younger cadets made."
Stonesifer grew up in Doylestown, Pa., and attended Central Bucks West High School. He moved to Missoula several years ago with his girlfriend and best friend, according to his father's fiance, Dr. Roberta Diamond.
"He was an adventurer," she told The Intelligencer of Doylestown. "Kris could tell you which ants to eat and which roots and herbs to eat, too."
Officials would not disclose the role of the Black Hawk, but some believed it was preparing to cross into Afghanistan in the event any Rangers had to be rescued.
Capt. Elizabeth Ortiz, an Air Force spokeswoman in Europe, said the bodies were flown to Germany's Ramstein Air Base. "Appropriate military honors were rendered when they arrived," she said Sunday.
She declined to say when the remains would be returned to the United States.
The deaths hit Korhonen, an Army veteran, hard.
"In our generation, we saw incredibly neat men die in Vietnam, and the generation before, there were incredibly neat young men in Korea and World War II, and they had so much promise, and now it's [happening] again."