“Michael’s dream was always to be a soldier in the Army,” said John Jankowich, a close family friend and local spokesperson of the Stansbery family. “There is actually a letter/note hanging on the family’s refrigerator in the kitchen that Michael wrote as a school project in elementary school in which Michael describes how he will grow up and be a soldier in the Army. Michael had the blessing of being able to live out his dream, that is why he enlisted.”
Michael graduated from basic training at Ft. Sill, Okla. in October 2007. He completed one tour of duty in Iraq in 2008-2009. Upon returning from Iraq, he re-enlisted in the Army, was transferred to Ft. Campbell, and was the deployed to Afghanistan in early June of this year.
“Michael’s family has always been exceedingly proud of his service to our country overseas, both in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Jankowich said Tuesday. “Michael’s father, Michael Sr., is a United States Marine that served in Desert Storm, so they knew well the risks involved in Michael’s service. Despite that they always embraced and supported Michael in his choice of career and service, and did everything they could possibly do to help him serve. I think it is very important for people to understand that both Mom and Dad are incredibly appreciative of all the help and support they have gotten from The United States Army since Michael’s death.”
Jankowich said Michael’s long term plans were to have a lifetime career in the U.S. Army. He leaves behind his mother, Tammy, father, Michael Sr., and younger sister Michelle.
Service to his country is important to the Stansbery family: his aunt, Lynelle Chauncery Zelnar, is the Executive Director and Founder of Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, Inc. (FSO), in Lake Worth, Fla. According to Zelnar, “FSO is a national not-for-profit organization that since 2003 has been sending out monthly ‘we care’ packages to our military personnel serving overseas, covering all world theaters.” She said her nephew played a large part in connecting soldiers near him to people who care back home.
“Michael’s death has touched the organization and its volunteers personally. His gratitude and emails of appreciation to FSO is an example of what a nice, gentleman, appreciative man he was,” Zelnar said. “He provided us with more names of soldiers to become recipients and made special requests of items, which we were able to always fulfill.”
Jankowich said Michael’s family is “certainly mourning his loss, and will likely continue to do so for some time to come.”
“They wish to express their thanks to the countless people from the Wilson County community that have reached out to them with love, support, assistance and prayers,” Jankowich said. ‘They would also like people to know that they will always remember Michael as the patriot and hero that he truly is, they will always be proud of his service in the United States Army, and they will always be grateful for all of the opportunities the Army provided Michael and the help and support the Army has provided to the family.”
Support was important to Michael, as was displayed by his involvement in his aunt’s cause, Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, Inc.
“It’s the gratefulness and appreciation that he and others soldiers share with us that keeps our organization going strong...this is a time that people can help us with our mission of sending ‘that little bit of home’ to assure they are not forgotten,” Zelnar said. “Making a donation to FSO in Michael’s memory (is) an awesome way to pay tribute and honor a True American Hero.”
Zlenar said donations can be made directly via PayPal on the website, www.forgottensoldiers.org or mail to: Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, Inc., 3550 23rd Ave. South, Suite 7, Lake Worth, Fla., 33461. Just note: Memory of Spc Michael Stansbery Jr. U.S. ARMY.
Stansbery was a cannon crewmember assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, according to a Department of Defense report. He arrived in Ft. Campbell in April 2010 and was the 11th Ft. Campbell soldier reported dead in Afghanistan in July. In June, 21 soldiers lost their lives.
A memorial service was held for Michael in Afghanistan. Jankowich said Tuesday that Michael’s body will be flown from Dover, Del., to the Lebanon Municipal Airport on Thursday, where he will be met with full military honors.
Visitation with the family will be at Bond Memorial Chapel in Mt. Juliet on Saturday, Aug. 7, from 1-8 p.m. A service will be held 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8, at Wilson Central High School’s gymnasium, conducted by Rev. Lee Stevenson and Dr. Kay Gray.
The family will hold a reception in Michael’s honor at Cook’s United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. Following the service, Michael will be cremated. His cremated remains will be interred with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorials be made in honor of Michael to Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, Inc., 3550 23rd Ave. S., Suite #7, Lake Worth, FL 33461 or www.forgottensoldiers.org.
Editor’s Note: Tomi L. Wiley is the editor of The Chronicle of Mt. Juliet. She may be contacted at Editor@thechronicleofmtjuliet.com.