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Vermont National Guard soldier killed in Afghanistan

COLCHESTER, Vt. --A Vermont National Guard soldier serving on a base with Afghan soldiers in the southern part of the country was killed Wednesday during an attack by Taliban militants, Guard officials announced.

Sgt. 1st Class John Thomas Stone, 52, of Tunbridge, who was known as Thomas, was killed by small arms fire, said Gen. Martha Rainville, commander of the Vermont Guard. Stone was on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan, she said, and was attached to Task Force Catamount.

"He felt he was making a difference," Rainville said. "He cared very much about others in the world."

Also killed in the attack was a Canadian soldier, identified as Pvt. Robert Costall of the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton, Alberta.

Stone was unmarried but left a longtime partner, Rose Loving of Tunbridge, Rainville said. He had no children but a sister lives in Florida.

Stone joined the U.S. Army after his graduation from Woodstock Union High School in 1971 and has served in the active duty Army, the Reserves or the National Guard since, officials said. He has worked full-time for the Vermont Guard since 2000.

The attack took place early in the morning Wednesday in Afghanistan, which was still Tuesday afternoon in Vermont. He was assigned to train Afghan troops and was directing the soldiers when he was shot, Rainville said. He was wearing full body armor at the time.

Officials in Afghanistan said at least five coalition troops were wounded in the same attack, including three Canadians and an American.

A small contingent of Canadian and American forces serve alongside Afghan troops at the base in the Sangin district of the volatile Helmand province.

Stone's death brought to 223 the number of U.S. service members killed in and around Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. Twelve Canadians have been killed in the turbulent country since 2002, according to the Canadian Press news agency.

Stone was the first Vermonter killed in Afghanistan and the 11th National Guard member killed in combat since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Twenty-one U.S. service members with Vermont ties have been killed in action in Iraq. A 22nd soldier died of natural causes in Kuwait while waiting to enter Iraq.

Vermont National Guard Capt. Jeff Roosevelt served in Afghanistan two years ago during Stone's previous deployment. "He always had a positive attitude, always looked at the bright sides of things," Roosevelt said after Rainville's news conference at Vermont National Guard headquarters in Colchester.

Stone, who was trained as a medic and known as "Doc," set up medical clinics for the Afghans that Roosevelt said probably saved hundreds of civilian lives.

Rainville, who is preparing to leave her post on Friday to run for Congress, said it had been a demanding time for the Guard.

"This continues to be just a difficult time for the National Guard and the state," she said. "Each loss just affects so many people."

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