FERNLEY - Shortly after he enlisted in the military in 1989, Sgt. Patrick Dana Stewart finished training on helicopter repair and would eventually become a flight technician.
"He loved it," said his father, Steve Stewart. "As a flight engineer, he got to do what he loved. All he wanted to do was fly."
But while Stewart's family and friends are still coming to terms with the news of his death Sunday in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, his wife, Roberta, said she finds at least a little solace knowing that he died doing what he loved best - flying.
Stewart, 34, and fellow Nevada Guardsman CW3 John Michael Flynn, 36, were among five soldiers killed in the crash. Both Stewart and Flynn were in Company D, 113th Aviation of the Nevada Army National Guard based in Stead.
Also killed in the crash were Sgt. Kenneth G. Ross, 24, of Peoria, Ariz., of the 7th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment based in Germany and Warrant Officer Adrian B. Stump, 22, and Sgt. Tane T. Baum, 30, both Company D out of Pendleton, Ore.
The five soldiers died when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed Sunday morning near the Daychopan district in southern Zabul. The chopper was part of a convoy of aircraft in the area, and military officials said other pilots did not see it come under fire.
An investigation into the crash's cause is still being conducted.
Stewart, a CH-47 repair technician, was an 11-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Army Reserve and the Nevada National Guard. He served in Operation Desert Storm and also at Fort Sill, Okla., and Camp Humphries, Korea.
Roberta Stewart said she knew Flynn and that the families in her husband's company could be described as "very tight knit."
"This hurts all of us," she said Tuesday, surrounded by family and friends in her Fernley home. "I'm proud of my husband because he was an extraordinary man and an extraordinary father. He gave 100 percent with everything he did."
Patrick Stewart also leaves behind a 15-year-old son, Raymond, who lives in Texas, and a 12-year-old adopted daughter, Alexandria, who is in the process of being adopted into the Stewart family.
After he was deployed to Afghanistan in March, Roberta said Patrick made it a point to call her as much as he could. When a telephone wasn't available, he would often resort to e-mail.
"When he was fortunate enough to call, he always shared everything with me," she said. "He would let me know where he was and how he was doing."
Steve Stewart said he knows he will have a tough time adjusting to his son not being with him, but he will try to focus on the positive memories he has of Patrick.
"I think he had an attitude that was always very positive and he was always a hard worker," his father said. "He had a good time and liked joking and he was very supportive of his team. For those who knew him, we need to hang on to those fond memories."
Roberta said she has many of those fond memories of her husband, whom she had been married to for nearly two years. Their second wedding anniversary would have been in November.
"My husband was hysterical," she said. "He was one of the few people who could keep me laughing all the time. He's always been a hero in my eyes and I hope he'll be a hero all around."
She said the two last spoke on the phone Saturday afternoon - the day before Patrick died.
According to Roberta, Patrick sounded like he was in good spirits and had just bought some gifts for her in Afghanistan.
"I asked him what he bought and said I wouldn't know and I'd have to wait," Roberta said with a smile.
But the last words she ever heard from her husband summed up exactly what she and Patrick felt about each other.
"I said, 'Be safe,'" Roberta remembered. "He said, 'I will. And I love you.'"
n Contact reporter Burke Wasson at firstname.lastname@example.org