WASHINGTON – An Army sergeant raised in Crofton was killed in Afghanistan on Sept. 30 in vehicle accident, the Defense Department announced Monday.
Sgt. 1st Class James J. Stoddard Jr., 29, was traveling to assist another vehicle in Gumbaud, when his vehicle rolled over into a ditch, said Army spokeswoman Beth Musselman.
“On his way down, he was telling soldiers to get out” of the vehicle, said Stoddard’s sister, Kate Hoffman, recalling what Army officials told her family.
Stoddard was based in Fort Bragg, N.C., where he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division. This was Stoddard’s second tour of Afghanistan, and he served a three-month tour in Iraq before his current deployment.
He was remembered as a generous spirit with a gift for instantly bringing a smile out of family and friends.
“He had the uncanny ability to make people laugh,” Hoffman said.
Also according to family members, Stoddard worked hard to keep his family close even while overseas, especially after his father died last year.
“When he would call, it was to talk to his mother and sisters, about us and what we were going to do when he got back,” Hoffman said. “He was still trying to be our support structure.”
As a young man, Stoddard was an avid athlete, taking part in a championship baseball team, playing football and running indoor track while at Arundel High School, where he graduated in 1994.
It took three-and-a-half years of courses at Anne Arundel Community College and Salisbury State University before Stoddard began exploring options in the Army, his sister said.
“His life wasn’t going where he wanted it to, and he thought the military would give him that direction,” Hoffman said.
Army service runs in his family. Stoddard’s grandfather, a World War II veteran, fought in the famous Battle of the Bulge, and his late father, James Sr., was a veteran who served during the Vietnam War. His uncle, Frank Kearney, is a brigadier general based in Tampa, Fla.
Stoddard’s decision to enlist in the Army ultimately led him to his wife, Amy, who he met shortly after graduating from basic training at Fort Bragg. They were raising three children: daughters Megan Conley, 13, and Makenzie Stoddard, 1; and a son, James J. Stoddard III.
But even with the tragic loss, laughter could be heard in the Stoddard home Tuesday, a testament to Stoddard’s warm spirit.
“He wouldn’t let us sit around and let us dwell,” Hoffman said. “He loved what he did . . . and was doing what he wanted.”
Stoddard will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.
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