Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Afghanistan duty claims Hillsville-born soldier
Chrystal Stout was one of the 18 people killed in a Chinook helicopter crash Wednesday.
"It lasted three weeks," her aunt Cynthia Mabe of Hillsville recalled Monday. But that experience didn't deter Stout from exploring new places. Her latest trip took her much farther from her birthplace of Hillsville and her home in South Carolina.
A specialist in the National Guard stationed in Afghanistan since last fall, Stout was one of the 18 people killed in the crash of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter 80 miles southwest of Kabul on Wednesday.
The Pentagon also announced Monday that a second person with Virginia ties died in the crash. Pfc. Pendelton L. Sykes II, 25, of Chesapeake was serving in Afghanistan but his unit was based in Giebelstadt, Germany. He was with the 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, 12th Aviation Brigade.
The 23-year-old Stout became the first woman from Southwest Virginia to die in the Afghanistan or Iraqi conflicts. The helicopter crashed on its way back to Bagram Air Base because of bad weather.
Stationed at Bagram, Stout traveled to different bases helping repair equipment as a communications specialist, her aunt said. She e-mailed friends and family frequently to tell them about the people she met there. She sent photos of everything from the snowy landscape to goofy moments with friends.
"If she could've stayed a year longer, she would have because the people were so wonderful," Mabe said. "She loved it there."
Stout's remains arrived in the United States on Monday. Her grandfather said that plans are being made for a funeral for her on Saturday in South Carolina.
Born in Hillsville, Stout moved to South Carolina when she was 14 with her father, Tony Stout, and her brother and sister. She spent the rest of her childhood in the Greenville area and in 1999 graduated from Trinity Christian Academy in Piedmont, where she played on the school's basketball team. She also played softball and soccer and enjoyed fishing. When her aunt asked her in December what she wanted for Christmas, Stout said that she wanted two baseball gloves and a ball so she and her friends could play catch.
Stout joined the National Guard in August 2001 with plans of going to college to study law enforcement. She was accepted to Liberty University in Lynchburg last summer. Two days after receiving her acceptance letter, she found out that she was going to be called into active duty, her aunt said. She left for Afghanistan in the early fall and was scheduled to return home in December.
Growing up in Hillsville, Stout attended Victory Way Baptist Church. She was very religious and signed all of her e-mails with a quote that read, "For without God, nothing shall be possible."
Mabe said that her niece loved children and frequently exchanged e-mails with her 8-year-old cousin. When filling out a will before leaving for Afghanistan, she made a point to will most of her money to her sister Sonya so she could start a savings fund for her young children.
Her grandfather John Stout, who also lives in Hillsville, said that she would visit family there two or three times a year. While she was normally very outgoing, she used those trips to relax.
"She just liked taking it easy," he said, adding that Hillsville was a good place to do just that. While he received some calls from friends who found out about his granddaughter's death, Stout said that most of the community didn't get to know her very well because she left at such a young age.
While she was enjoying her time in Afghanistan, Stout also shared plans with her grandfather about hiking through Europe with her friends after her tour of duty. She also told him to be expecting a visit from her when she hiked the Appalachian Trail.
"I said, 'I'll walk with you as far as you want to walk,'" John Stout said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.