Distinguished Service Cross recipient Stevon Booker ’embodied Army values’ | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Distinguished Service Cross recipient Stevon Booker ’embodied Army values’

Chuck Biedka

Army Staff Sgt. Stevon Booker didn’t have to climb out of his tank on April 5, 2003, but his unit was under heavy fire near Baghdad and he refused to hunker down.

Booker, then a 34-year-old commander of the M1A1 tank, climbed up to fire a .50-caliber machine gun mounted atop the tank. Then, when that gun malfunctioned, he grabbed a rifle and kept firing.

The Kiski Township native fired hundreds of rounds at insurgents over the span of nearly five miles before being fatally wounded. He also relayed information that helped American forces destroy an enemy truck carrying an anti-aircraft gun before he died.

The actions of Booker, who is being honored April 5 with the Distinguished Service Cross, didn’t surprise Daniel Thompson, who considered Booker a mentor and was in a nearby tank the day he was killed.

“I told him I’d never been in combat. I didn’t know if I could make it through. My son was 5 or 6 months old, and I was worried,” said Thompson of Springfield, Ohio.

“I asked him what happens to my son if I wasn’t there to raise him. And Booker said, ‘Don’t worry, if anything happens, I will take care of your son,’ ” Thompson recounted.

Booker had enlisted in the Army soon after graduating from Apollo-Ridge High School in 1988. When he died about 15 years later, flags throughout the Apollo area were lowered to half-staff.

He was the first soldier from Southwestern Pennsylvania to be killed in the Iraq War.

Now 16 years after that, he is receiving the nation’s second-highest military honor for valor. He previously had been awarded the Silver Star, but the military is upgrading that during a public ceremony at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

“The Army worked hard to have the ceremony 16 years to the day he died,” said Booker’s mother, Freddie Jackson of Kiski Township.

A spokesman for the 3rd Infantry Division in which Booker had been serving said the division is “extremely honored” that Booker is posthumously receiving the Distinguished Service Cross.

“Not only is this a great honor for us, but for his family as well,” said Lt. Col. Patrick J.O. Husted, a public affairs officer with the 3rd Infantry Division.

“Staff Sgt. Booker demonstrated what it meant to be an American soldier, one who exuded and embodied the Army values and warrior ethos,” Husted said. “In his selfless actions, he epitomized the concept of shoot, move and communicate, effectively protecting the members of his platoon with zero regard for his personal safety.”

Husted said Booker “exemplified the highest ideals of the American soldier, and demonstrated this with his valiant and intrepid actions. He placed the mission first and never accepted defeat.”

The April 5 ceremony will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, 4141 Fifth Ave., in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. For more information, call 412-621-4253.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, [email protected] or via Twitter .


824479_web1_vnd-BookerMemory3-030819
Submitted Army photos
Kiski Township native Stevon Booker (right) with the crew of the U.S. tank “Another Episode” in 2003. The NCO will posthumously receive the nation’s second highest military honor at a special ceremony April 5 at Soldiers and Sailor’s Memorual Hall. The public is invited.
824479_web1_vnd-bookermemory-030919
Army photos
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.