ARLINGTON, Texas - Medal of Honor recipient retired Col. James Lamar Stone ignored hospice caretakers' advice, and attended a change of responsibility ceremony to see his friend Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Darlington transfer his non-commissioned officer duties as the outgoing senior enlisted leader of the 90th Aviation Support Battalion.
Less than a month later Stone's family asked Darlington to eulogize the Korean War hero, who retired from the Army with more than 30 years of service, after he died from prostate cancer at age 89 in Arlington, Texas, Nov. 9, 2012.
The two men forged a friendship after they met at a Veterans Day event at the VFW National Cemetery in Dallas in 2009. At the event, Darlington was among representatives of all the military services, but he was the only soldier in uniform. He said he felt a tap on his shoulder, and when he turned around, he saw Stone with the Medal of Honor around his neck.
According to Darlington, Stone said, "'Young man, I want you to stay by my side for the day because I'm surrounded by all these other services, and I like seeing somebody in the Army uniform.'"
As their friendship progressed, Stone shared his combat experience and wisdom with Darlington who developed an appreciation for Stone as a leader. At the time, the 90th Aviation Battalion operated from temporary location in Grand Prairie Texas while a new Army Reserve Center was being built. Darlington suggested naming the new facility after Stone, who also served a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1971.
"I thought it would be a great way to put younger soldiers in touch with our past, and to connect the past with the present," said Darlington, currently the 800th Logistics Support Brigade's senior enlisted leader. "We ended up getting the approval after a lengthy process, and we had the building dedicated in Col. Stone's honor. It's now called the Col. James L. Stone Army Reserve Center, Fort Worth, Texas."
In the eulogy, Darlington said Stone's humble nature struck him the first time they met.
When he asked Stone for permission to name the building in his honor, Darlington told the congregation that Stone thought long and hard then replied, "'Now surely young man you can find someone more deserving than me.'"
During the Korean War, Stone was a 28-year-old first lieutenant when Chinese troops attacked his platoon on a hilltop near Sokkogae the night of Nov. 21, 1951. According to his Medal of Honor citation, Stone moved to the location of a flamethrower that had malfunctioned and repaired it while under fire. A bullet struck him, but Stone picked up the platoon's only working machine gun and shot back at the attackers who advanced from two directions. When the attack ended half of his 48-man platoon had been killed, and most of the survivors were wounded.
Chinese troops captured Stone, and they held him prisoner for 20 months in North Korea. Five weeks after the War ended, they released him in a prisoner exchange.
President Dwight Eisenhower presented Stone the Medal of Honor Oct. 27, 1953.
Stone was terminally ill during the last two years of his life, but he attended as many 90th ASB unit events as he could. He frequently called the battalion inquiring about unit activities, and he enjoyed interacting with soldiers.
Darlington said he suspected that the colonel's time with the soldiers helped keep his mind off his illness.