POCATELLO, ID, USA U.S. Army SGT, HHT, 3D BRIGADE, FORT BENNING, GA BAGHDAD, IRAQ 05/08/2007
Blake Christopher Stephens was born at Bannock Regional Medical Center, 28 September 1981. He was the youngest child of Dr. Trent Dee and Kathleen Rae Stephens. Blake grew up with his four older siblings: Summer, Rhett, Brittani and Derek in their home on the east bench south of Pocatello. Blake spent his early life running freely in the hills behind their home.
He started school at Indian Hills Elementary, and then finished at Washington Elementary, following a boundary change. He began at Irving Junior High, and then finished junior high and part of high school as a home schooler. Blake became an Eagle Scout in 1998. He was in the first graduating class at the new Century High School in 2000. He was a member of the state championship cross country and track teams his senior year at Century.
The week Blake turned 17 he joined the Idaho National Guard. The following summer he attended basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, finishing top in his class.
Blake took a leave of absence from the National Guard to serve a mission in Belgium and the Netherlands for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Blake had been serving for six months when 9/11 occurred. He immediately started making arrangements to come home and by Christmas 2001, Blake was home trying to find some way to be called up for active duty.
He applied for every duty that he could find, including helping train the National Guard Cavalry unit from Boise as one of the “bad guys.” During exercises against six Abrams A1 tanks, Blake personally took out one tank and captured another with a hand-held rocket launcher. He earned a commendation for this action.
Still trying to find a way to get into action, Blake volunteered to join a National Guard unit from Preston that was being deployed. Their deployment, however, was not to Afghanistan, but to help guard Hill Air Force Base in Utah. There, Blake met and married the love of his life, Erin Dructor, a beautiful blonde Air Force Security Forces agent. During the next two years, Erin was deployed three times to Qatar, UAE and Iraq.
After six years in the National Guard and a six-month break, during which time he worked at Hart N Soul as a tattoo artist and started a rock band, Blake joined the U.S. Army. When the 4,000-strong battalion went in for their final five-mile run before their deployment, Blake was chosen as the flag bearer for that run.
Two months after he arrived in Iraq, Blake was commander of the lead vehicle in a four-HMMVEE convoy escorting Colonel Wayne Grigsby through Salman Pak, 18 miles southeast of Baghdad when his vehicle was hit simultaneously by four improvised explosive devices May 8, 2007. Two days prior, he talked with Erin on the phone for about 30 minutes.
“We both said how much we loved each other. He said he always dreamt about me and that he loved me, and that he’d call in a couple of days. We always gave each other a kiss over the phone before we got off, and said ‘bye’ like five times. I’ll never, ever forget that conversation. I’m so thankful for that last phone call.”
She said the couple planned to start a family when Blake returned.“We’re so young, we had our whole life ahead of us,” Erin said. “We wanted a family together. Thinking about not having kids with him is what’s killing me now.”