Thomas D. Elliott gave a Civil War-era gun to his grandnephew, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. David H. Stewart, because “I figured he was the most deserving,” Elliott said.
“I thought so much about him that I passed a Civil War gun that was carried by my great grandfather,” said Elliott, 75, a former Marine who lives in Clayton, Ohio.
Stewart, 34, of Stafford, Va., died Friday in Afghanistan during combat operations in Helmand province in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps.
Lance Cpl. Brandon J. Garabrandt, 19, of Peterborough, N.H., and Lance Cpl. Adam F. Wolff, 25, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also were killed. All three were assigned to the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The military did not release additional details, but Elliott said the three apparently were riding in a Humvee that struck an improvised explosive device.
“This is a blow,” Elliott said. “I never cried for my father, my mother. I do cry for David.”
Stewart was married and had two young children. He ran in an Air Force Marathon race two years ago at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Elliott said.
“He had a very easy going way,” he said. “He was a very handsome young man. He was into everything that he should be. …He’s the type of person I would lay my life down for.”
Stewart, a 10-year Marine Corps veteran, deployed to Afghanistan after completing a stint as a drill instructor. He was a platoon sergeant and deployed to Iraq twice. He was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan and was promoted to staff sergeant Nov. 11, 2010, the Marine Corps said.
Garabrant, of Peterborough, N.H., was a combat engineer who joined the Marine Corps in March 2013. Wolff, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was a combat engineer who joined the Marines in December 2012. Both deployed to Afghanistan in March.2 and was promoted to lance corporal Feb. 1, then deployed to Afghanistan in March.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.