Family and friends of a young Lake Berryessa soldier who died while serving in Afghanistan are attempting to come to terms with the loss.
Chase Stanley, 21, was killed Wednesday when insurgents attacked the vehicle he was riding in with an improvised explosive device.
The attack occurred in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan and also killed Army Spc. Jesse D. Reed, 26, of Orefield, Penn., Spc. Matthew J. Johnson, 21, of Maplewood, Minn., and Sgt. Zachary M. Fisher, 24, of Ballwin, Mo.
Stanley is the son of Nylind and Debbie Stanley, residents of Lake Berryessa, and brother to Britney Stanley, 23, and Ryan Stanley, 26. Chase Stanley graduated from Napa High School in 2006, and enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17, alongside his two good friends Matt Fuller and Max Wilhite, Britney Stanley said.
“I think he felt like that was his skill set,” she said. “It was what he wanted to do, he was supposed to be there. He spent his whole life getting ready for it, always hunting. Outdoors was his lifestyle.”
Army Spc. Matt Fuller said he grew up camping, hunting, fishing and riding dirt bikes with Stanley in the Lake Berryessa area and decided to enlist in the Army alongside their friend, Wilhite.
“Ever since we were little kids, it was never something that was talked about; it was just something we were going to do,” Fuller said. “Of course when 9/11 happened, that definitely hit the nail home. Napa is a small town and we wanted to get out and see the world.”
The trio enlisted after high school and Stanley was sent to boot camp during the second week of July 2006, recalls childhood friend Lance Bubak, 20. Stanley’s service record included a 15-month tour in Iraq as part of the 27th Engineer Battalion (Combat Airborne), 20th Engineer Brigade (Combat), out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
“That’s one thing that I can say about Chase,” Bubak said. “He always came back and it was like old times. Even if something did bother him, he wouldn’t complain.”
In December 2009, Stanley was ordered to serve in Afghanistan with his unit, but not before returning home to Lake Berryessa to spend time with his friends and family.
“He was home for Thanksgiving around then; we all saw him,” Britney Stanley said. “We had a big family party.”
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Chase Stanley also took the time to get together with friends such as Fuller, Bubak and his brother, Dane, who also grew up in the Lake Berryessa area alongside Stanley. Bubak said Stanley was the type of guy who would always make everyone laugh, offering funny quotes from one of his favorite movies “Joe Dirt” and donning a pair of goggles while sitting around a campfire, giving everyone nicknames.
He was also fiercely dedicated to his friends, family and country, Bubak said. In December 2009, Stanley, Bubak and Fuller attended a friend’s barbecue in Davis. The childhood friends ate, drank and swapped stories of the past and present, Bubak said.
“I never once heard him say ‘I hate it out there,’” Bubak said. “He was just a guy who would say ‘This is my job.’ I remember giving him a big hug and saying ‘Hey man, take care of yourself. We have some more things to do in the future.’”
Bubak said that he knew his friend was serving in a dangerous place, but hoped that the danger would never find him. The death of his childhood friend has Bubak in shock, he said.
“I’m pretty sad about the whole ordeal,” he said.
Fuller said Stanley was his best friend and he is attempting to remain strong in the wake of his death.
“I’m doing as well as I can I guess,” Fuller said. “I talked to his mother this morning. We are trying to arrange for all of us to get home because of the funeral and everything. Everything seems to be falling apart for me. He was more than just a friend. I’ve known him my whole life. I’m just trying to keep my stuff together and be strong for him.”
Knowing that Stanley was in a war zone concerned his family, Britney Stanley said, but Stanley made frequent calls back home to reassure them that he was OK.
“He called whenever he could, he always called my mom and told us as much as he could,” she said.
Stanley was looking forward to coming home in September for his brother Ryan’s wedding, his sister said. Stanley died a little over a month before his 22nd birthday. His parents, Nylind and Debbie, could not be reached for comment on Saturday afternoon. Funeral arrangements for Stanley have not been released.
Stanley is the third person from Napa County to have died oversees in the recent Middle East conflicts. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Phillip West, of American Canyon, died while on a mission in Iraq in November 2004, and U.S. Army Pfc. Jennifer Cole, of Napa, died in Iraq in August 2008.