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Marine’s family shares about his ‘love of life’

RELATED: Hundreds pay respect to Stewart

Marine Staff Sgt. David Stewart of Stafford County had two loves in his life: his family, and the United States Marine Corps.

Stewart was killed June 20 while supporting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on his fifth deployment with the Marine Corps.

“He was the happiest person I ever met, and I fell in love with him at 16,” his wife said.

Stewart met his wife, Kristine Stewart, in Stafford at A.G. Wright Middle School. They started dating in high school and spent half of their lives—17 years—together.

After Stewart graduated from North Stafford High School, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve to continue a longtime family tradition of service.

The son of a retired lieutenant colonel and brother of a Marine, Stewart grew up in a very patriotic household and followed in his father’s footsteps.

“He grew up in a Marine family and it was part of his heart,” Kristine said.

About two years ago, Kristine and David had their first child, a beautiful daughter named Mackenzie.

“I fell in love with him all over again when I saw him hold our daughter for the first time,” Kristine Stewart said.

A year later they celebrated the birth of their son, Marshall, now 14 months old.

Stewart was described as a loving, joyful father.

“He was full of love, full of life. He was an amazing person,” said his sister-in-law, Casey Stewart.

Although she is incredibly sad and still in disbelief, Stewart’s wife said the community response has helped her family in the past week.

“I’m grateful for all the support my family is receiving from the community and all the prayers,” Kristine said.

Her husband was the kind of person who would be apologizing right now because he would never want his family to be so sad, she said.

“He’s funny. He had a good sense of humor,” said Stewart’s former platoon commander, Chris Doggett.

“And he was certainly a man of integrity,” he added.

Doggett fondly recalled a time when a friend sent a fifth of Jack Daniel’s whiskey to Stewart, who was deployed to Iraq at the time. Marines were not allowed to drink alcohol while on duty there.

“He turned it right over,” Doggett said.

Stewart lived by the Marine Corps code of honor and ethics in all parts of his life, his wife said. He considered it an honor to serve as one of the few.

“He was so full of love, and that love carried over to the Marines,” she said.

Stewart joined the Marine Corps in 2000 as a reservist, but after the attacks on 9/11, he was mobilized and deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.

After a few weeks of no communication, Stewart called his wife for the first time from overseas.

“He called and said, ‘Sweetheart, I think this is what I want to do. What do you think about making the Marine Corps a career?’” Kristine said. She immediately agreed.

Stewart had a light in his eyes every time he came home from a training, and he always talked about how awesome his time with the Marines was, she said.

“He loved it so much, and so did I,” Kristine said.

Doggett, his former platoon commander, recalled Stewart’s courage during his second deployment to Fallujah in 2006. During his six months in Iraq, Stewart led two fire teams of four Marines as a squad leader.

As the tour progressed, the platoon encountered more and more improvised explosive devices.

On a July 4 outing in 2006, Stewart and another Marine got out of their vehicle to make sure the area was safe to move forward and discovered what they thought was a roadside bomb. After further investigation, Stewart and the other Marines realized that they had happened upon a daisy chain of three connected bombs that their tire had missed by mere inches.

“I’m never going to forget the Fourth of July we narrowly missed [the IEDs],” Doggett said.

Because of Stewart’s success as a combat engineer, the platoon members were able to avoid the bombs and get back to base safely, Doggett said.

Stewart was never one to sit and watch other Marines do his work, Doggett added. After sustaining a concussion that restricted him from leaving the base, Stewart would continuously ask Doggett for permission to do more work.

“He would ask with a smirk on his face because he already knew the answer,” Doggett said. “I couldn’t disobey the doctor’s orders, but it was an example of his courage.”

Stewart’s excellent record of service earned him a reputation back in the States as a coveted soldier. He became a drill instructor and trained new Marines in the States.

“I was really proud of him because he’s really one of the finest Marines to get chosen to go to the drill field and create new Marines,” Doggett said.

In his nearly 14-year career, 10 years of which he served on active duty, Stewart accumulated 14 awards and honors, including the Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Valor.

“He was a Marine everyone wanted on their team,” Doggett said. “He inspired a lot of people: his peers, subordinates, and superiors He inspired me.”

Funeral services for Stewart will take place in the Quantico Marine Base Chapel at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, July 1. The burial will follow shortly after at Quantico National Cemetery at 2:30 p.m.

Katie Shepherd 540/374-5417

kshepherd@freelancestar.com 

Memories wanted

Staff Sgt. David Stewart’s family is collecting photos and videos of the procession at lettersforkenzieandmarshall@gmail.com. The photos will be bound into a memory book for Stewart’s two children, Mackenzie and Marshall.

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