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08-26-09, 08:53 AM
‘True American Hero’
Jamestown Marine Injured In Afghanistan, In Critical Condition

By Kristen Johnson kajohnson@ post-journal.com

An ambush attack in Afghanistan that involved an improvised explosive device has left a Jamestown Marine fighting for his life in the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Staff Sgt. John J. Stanz, 27, arrived stateside Tuesday after having spent nearly two weeks in the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, the largest American hospital outside the United States. Stanz - who was serving with the Marine Special Operations Company F, 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion - was critically injured on Aug. 15 when the vehicle in which he was riding was blown up by a land-planted IED.

Doctors in Germany placed Stanz in a medically induced coma and were able to perform a procedure to keep the pressure in his brain low enough so he could make the 12-hour flight between Germany and America. Stanz is suffering from severe enclosed head trauma, multiple facial fractures, a fractured right hand, a fractured left foot, a dislocated right knee and damage to both of his lungs.

One of Stanz's brothers, Joe, made the flight home with his brother on Tuesday. His parents, John and Sandy Stanz - who now live in Hamburg but are formerly of Chapman Street in Jamestown - are making the flight home today. Five of his sisters - Lisa Destro, Stacy Waite and Amy Pavlovich of Hamburg, Tara Archfield of Maryland and Cassie Stanz of Connecticut - must wait until Friday before they can fly back to America.

The Stanz family also includes sister Christy Quinter of California and brother Mike Stanz of Warren, Pa. John Stanz has 11 nieces and nephews.

''My heart goes out to his family,'' said Bruce Widen, a former teacher of Stanz's. ''Johnny is just the nicest kid. He'd go out of his way for anybody. He's very modest and very humble. He very firmly believed that what he was doing over there was right.''


This isn't Stanz's first deployment, nor is it the first time he has been injured while on duty.

He was first deployed to Iraq where, on Nov. 10, 2004, he sustained injuries in an ambush. Then with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Reconnaissance Platoon, Stanz's group was ambushed as their vehicle approached a T-intersection in the city.

He and the other Marines returned fire and, eventually, the fighting died down. But when the gunfire suddenly began again, Stanz was struck by a PK machine bullet that pierced his helmet and struck him in the left ear.

''It hurt,'' Stanz told The Post-Journal not long after he arrived home on leave in March 2005. ''It knocked me dizzy and my vision went out. Then, when I regained myself, I got up and started shooting again.''

The injury damaged Stanz's eardrum, and military medics had to lance part of his ear. Even so, he returned to duty just days after the injury. He was given a Purple Heart at a ceremony in January 2005 at the Forward Operating Base in Kalsu, Iraq.

Stanz was later deployed to Africa and, most recently, to Afghanistan.


By all accounts, Stanz is the kind of person who fights for what he believes. That's one reason, friends say, why Stanz enlisted with the Marine Corps in 2001.

''Johnny never enlisted in the military to become a hero,'' said Robert Spitale, a close friend of Stanz's. ''It was because he has passion. For the longest time, Johnny was certain he needed to represent his country on the world stage. What makes him a hero is that he's willing to do it in combat. He's willing to put his life on the line for something he believed strongly in - the right to be free and the right to be passionate about something.''

Cory Sims, another close friend of Stanz's, said his friend ''defines the true American hero.''

''His strength and courage are unparalleled,'' Sims said. ''He has been an amazing friend and he's the type of person who'd give you the shirt off his own back. He's a good-hearted Christian who puts God, family and friends above all else.''

Sims also spoke of Stanz's ''miraculous sense of humor'' and said his friend is ''the type of person ... (who) will keep you smiling and laughing even on the raniest and darkest of days.''

Jeremy Lyon called his friend ''the kind of person this world could use more of.''

''Johnny loves life - an ability that few possess and most wish they had,'' he said. ''He's the best kind of friend - selfless, caring and always there for you. His willingness to better himself and help those around him is unmatched. He's the kind of person who always knows the right face, gesture or off-the-wall comment to make to put you in a good mood, no matter what the situation.''

Spitale recalled growing up with Stanz and said it was ''quite the adventure.''

''He's not the type of person to go half-way on anything,'' Spitale said. ''There are many things he's passionate about - and the most notable of these are religion, family and country. I think all of us should take the time to think about what we are passionate about. We need to think about how thankful we are that we have friends, brothers, sons, and soldiers who are as passionate as Johnny Stanz is.''

The family and friends of Johnny Stanz are planning several fundraisers to assist the family.

Rummage Sale

When: Sept. 12, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 825 Forest Ave.

Item Drop-off: Sept. 11, 4-8 p.m. at the church

Donations from the public are welcome


When: Sept. 13, 1-7 p.m.

Where: Shawbucks, 212 W. Second St.

Cost: $10, donations will also be accepted

Includes live music; food available for purchase

Donation Fund

Donations can be made at any branch of Jamestown Savings Bank.

Checks should be made to ''The John Stanz Family Benefit.''

Cards can be sent to:

Joe Stanz

777 W. Germantown Pike

Apartment 431

Plymouth Meeting, Pa. 19462

For updates, visit www.truehero.us

Anyone able to assist with a fundraiser or who would like to make a donation can call:

- Bruce Widen, 665-6616

- Rosemary DiDomenico, 485-8419

- AnnMarie Phillips, 483-3646

- Jody Spitale, 483-2038