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Soldier was 'a man's man and a lady's dream'

August 10, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A Martinsburg soldier killed in Iraq was working his way toward becoming an officer, his family said.

To his father, Staff Sgt. Stephen A. Seale, 25, already was a gentleman.

"To be honest with you, he was a man's man, and a lady's dream," said John Seale, of Brunswick, Md., who cried Wednesday as he spoke of his son.

According to the U.S. Army, Seale and two other soldiers died Sunday when a bomb exploded outside the Humvee in which they were riding. The 2nd Brigade Troop Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, is set to return home this fall with the rest of the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky.

Seale, a 1999 Martinsburg High School graduate, is survived by his parents, a brother and a daughter, Isabel Grace, 3, of Hopkinsville, Ky., and extended family members.

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"He already had less than a month to go. He probably would have been back in time for his birthday, which was Sept. 11," his mother, Roxanne Ruppenthal, said as family members walked in and out of the back door of her Martinsburg home.

Though he had spent time in high school drawing up blueprints and dreaming of being an architect, Seale knew he had found his career when he joined the military, Ruppenthal said.

"I don't know why it changed, but when he had the opportunity to get out (of the) military last year, when he (re)-upped, we knew he'd made it a career," she said.

John "Jeffrey" Seale, 27, of Hurricane, Utah, who spent about 3 1/2 years in the U.S. Army, said he initially tried to talk his brother into joining the U.S. Air Force. At 6 foot 3 inches, Stephen was taller, but about two years younger, he said.

"We looked up to each other," he said.

According to John "Jeffrey" Seale and his father, the boys grew up fishing in area rivers and creeks. It was a pastime both brothers were passing on to their daughters, said John "Jeffrey" Seale, whose little girl is about the same age as Isabel.

Asked what he most admired about his younger brother, John "Jeffrey" Seale was quick to respond.

"How much he loved his daughter," he said.

Seale always was willing to help his friends, said Josh Robinson, who grew up nearby. Robinson, 25, who lives in Hedgesville, W.Va., said he first became friends with Seale when he was about 8 or 9 years old.

"If any of us had a problem, he was there, especially if any of us was falling down, he was there to pick you up," Robinson said. "Always."

Seale also cared for his men and his comrades, his stepfather, Darrll Ruppenthal said. That's why he wanted to go back for a second tour in Iraq, he said.

"When him and I talked, he wanted to go back. Like I said, he wanted to be with his comrades and friends. I remember when he left, I shook his hand and told him to be careful," Ruppenthal said.

To his mother, Seale was reticent about his service in Iraq. He did not want to worry her, she said.

Pictures of Seale dominate a bulletin board in Ruppenthal's home, and red-white-and-blue placemats sat in front of the chairs at the table.

Ruppenthal and her husband said they mailed huge boxes with special items for her son about once or twice a month. It was her way of feeling connecting to her son without talking too much about his job.

"It felt like it was a way of feeling a part of what was going on," she said. "It was the least we could do."

Though he had tried to talk his younger brother out of it, John "Jeffrey" Seale said he was proud of Stephen Seale's decision to join - and rejoin - the U.S. Army.

"I just wanted him to have a safer job, but I'm glad he joined the Army because he is my hero out of all, everybody. Everybody over there, (they are) my heroes," he said.




What you can do



Staff Sgt. Stephen A. Seale, 25, who died Sunday in Iraq, leaves behind a 3-year-old daughter, Isabel Grace Seale of Hopkinsville, Ky., her family said.

Stephen Seale's mother, Roxanne Ruppenthal, said her coworkers have set up an account for the girl.

Ruppenthal is a U.S. Park Ranger, she said.

People interested in making donations for Seale's daughter may write checks to: Isabel Grace Seale, Bank of Charles Town, P.O. Box 7, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425.

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