Army Staff Sgt. Mark A. Stets Jr.
Died February 03, 2010 serving during Operation Enduring Freedom
39, of El Cajon, Calif.; assigned to the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne), 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Feb. 3 in Timagara, Pakistan, from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Army Sgt. 1st Class David J. Hartman and Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew S. Sluss-Tiller.
(Taken from www.wvec.com of Feb. 3, 2010) VIRGINIA BEACH -- Mark Stets, Sr. and his wife, Nancy, say from a young age, it was pretty clear what their son would wind up doing.
"We have pictures of him having set up his little army of men," Nancy tells 13News, "and he still collected all that stuff."
"From the day he was born," says Stets, "he was a G.I. Joe."
Although Stets convinced his son to join the Navy, Mark, Jr. switched to the Army after a single tour. Nearly two decades after the change in branches, he was part of a Psychological Operations detachment out of Fort Bragg, NC that was serving in Pakistan. The staff sergeant was returning from a mission outside of Islamabad when someone detonated a roadside bomb using a remote control. Mark was among those killed.
"As a military family, you just understand that this is part of what comes with it," Nancy says as she takes a deep breath. "I hoped it would never come with it." She adds, "They were bombing a girls school. They hate their own people as much as they hate us, and that's what's sad is that they're killing their own people."
"My son has paid the ultimate price, but there's a lot of guys over there that I don't want to see them ever have to pay the price," Stets says.
The mission of which Mark was part did not receive much publicity. He and other Americans were helping train Pakistanis in the country's Border Region as part of an effort to fight Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan and root out members of al-Quaeda who occupy the mountainous border. Frequently, Mark was in civilian clothes for a job that he described as "marketing to the enemy."
"They try to win the hearts and the minds of the people. That's what they're doing. They're trying to work with them, give them self-confidence that their nation's all right, that they can do the things that they need to do," Stets explains. He continues, "You're trying to market our way of life, our type of government. I think we're trying to market something over there that, it's not marketable."
Despite resistance from many in Pakistan, Nancy tells 13News, "Just listening to him talk, he thoroughly was enjoying what he was doing, having a chance to work with the Pakistanis."
The Stetses headed for North Carolina Wednesday to be with their daughter-in-law, Nina. She and Mark have three daughters.
"Good son. Proud of him. Proud of what he was doing," Stets says. "Can't think of one thing that I'm disappointed in other than he won't come home."
The family is scheduled to receive the 39-year-old staff sergeant's body at Dover Air Force Base Thursday.