James J Stoddard Jr

CONSTANTINOPLE, MD, USA U.S. Army SFC, COMPANY A, 2D BATTALION, 504TH INFANTRY, (TF DEVIL), FORT BRAGG, NC GUMBAUD, AFGHANISTAN 09/30/2005

A Crofton family is mourning the loss of one of its members, a star Anne Arundel County athlete and father of three, who was killed Friday in Afghanistan. Army Sergeant First Class James J. Stoddard Jr., 29, died when the Humvee he was riding in turned over in a ditch in Kandahar Province, according to the Pentagon.

It was Sergeant Stoddard’s second tour of duty in Afghanistan. He also had served in the war in Iraq. Sergeant Stoddard was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He had been in the Army for eight years and in June he reenlisted for five more years.

“He 100 percent loved his job,” said his widow, Amy Stoddard. “He never, ever complained about his job.”

Sergeant Stoddard was the father of three children, his family said: Megan, 13, James III, 4, and Makenzie Erin, 1. Sergeant Stoddard graduated from Arundel High School in 1994, where he played football and was a pitcher his senior year on the baseball that finished second in the state.

“He was a fierce competitor – he always wanted to win,” Arundel High School Athletic Director and baseball coach Bernie Walter said. “He was one of our star players, and I (often) referred to him as one of the best relief pitchers in the country.”

Retired football coach Bill Zucco remembers Sergeant Stoddard as a fearless athlete.

“He was a tough little competitor,” Mr. Zucco said. “He wasn’t 6’2″, he was about 5′ 11″ and probably about 180 pounds – and I am probably making him bigger than he actually was. … He wasn’t afraid to get in there and mix it up.”

Amy Stoddard said her husband, who hated working at a desk, lifted weights and worked out a lot.

“He loved to lift weights,” said Mrs. Stoddard, a nurse at University Specialty Hospital in Baltimore. “He had huge shoulders and a big chest.”

Sergeant Stoddard attended Anne Arundel Community College after graduating from high school, according to his cousin, Kevin Hamlin of Crofton.

“He was my big brother; he was just a great all-round guy. He taught me how to play sports and just looked out for me at school,” Mr. Hamlin said of his cousin, who was three years his senior.

Mr. Hamlin said a number of family members are in the military, including an uncle, Army Gen. Frank Kearney. Sergeant Stoddard is survived by two sisters, Bridgett Anne Stoddard of Crofton and Katherine E. Hoffman of Erie, Pennsylvania. Sergeant Stoddard’s father died in June 2004.

James’ portrait is also located on Poster 3