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Troy native writes book about war experiences

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
The Western News | November 8, 2022 7:00 AM

Lincoln County native and military veteran Ryan Stovall has published his first book of poetry as he continues his efforts to help build a dialogue between those who have suffered through war.

Stovall, a 1999 graduate of Troy High School, served his country as a member of the Green Berets while rising to the rank of Staff Sgt. in the U.S. Army. He was awarded two Purple Hearts and twice decorated for valor.

Since returning from Pakistan in 2016, Stoval found writing to be a therapeutic outlet for coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His poetry won the 2018 Wright Award from Line of Advance and has appeared in Rosebud, The Cape Rock, Here Comes Everyone, as well as other journals and anthologies.

Stoval, who writes and lives with his family in Western Maine, had ‘Black Snowflakes Smothering a Torch’ published on Nov. 1 by Woodhall Press.

With ‘Black Snowflakes,’ Stoval wants to create dialogue between those who have experienced the crushing arms of war and those who have not.

Stoval’s work has received acclaim from those who have also served in war.

“Beautiful, brutal, and moving, Ryan Stovall’s Black Snowflakes is critical reading from a perspective that is almost never articulated with such astonishing raw honesty,” said Phil Klay, National Book Award winning author of Redeployment.

Black Snowflakes assumes that many issues veterans face when reintegrating come not from the veteran’s traumas but from the hypocrisies inherent to American civilian culture.

Stoval believes that ‘Black Snowflakes’ represents an invaluable starting point, one that will serve as both a reference for civilians seeking to understand and as a voice for veterans hoping to explain.

“Ryan Stovall’s debut collection is both confession and accusation. Joke and sometimes bitter punch line,” said Graham Barnhart, author of The War Makes Everyone Lonely. “While the poems set out to educate the lay reader on how to talk to their veteran, they also service cathartic self-excavation.”

Stovall is well-suited to write on the subject, owing to his experiences battling the Taliban for many years in the Middle East.

Stovall, the senior medical sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, was on a foot patrol on July 29, 2009, in eastern Afghanistan’s Chaps province with other soldiers when they were ambushed by about 15 insurgents in a gully. Stovall fired 100 rounds toward the enemy while his team took cover and returned fire.

Stovall suffered a leg injury during the firefight.

“The very first bullet hit a rock next to my leg and kicked a bunch of shrapnel up into my knee,” Stovall said in a 2010 interview with The Western News. “There wasn’t any pain, but I definitely knew I’d been shot.”

Chief Warrant Officer Douglas Vose, a team leader, was shot during the fight. Stovall treated Vose for more than 30 minutes until support arrived. Unfortunately, Vose later died from his injuries.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize what it’s like losing a brother in arms in combat,” Stovall said.

Then, on Sept. 5, Stovall and the Green Berets were in another firefight when nearly four dozen insurgents struck while Stovall’s unit was awaiting a French air evacuation following a reconnaissance mission.

Stovall suffered another leg injury when he was hit with shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade.

The mission involved International Security Assistance Forces. Army officials said Stovall’s actions helped secure critical information collected during the mission.

Stoval’s efforts earned him a Bronze Star medal, Army Commendation Medal and a Purple Heart for his role in the elimination of three Taliban leaders and more than a dozen other insurgents, and for securing vital reconnaissance information during intense battles in the summer of 2009.

Fotunately, Stovall recovered quickly from injuries and returned to his unit.

Stovall, a University of Maine alum, is the son of Becky Stovall of Libby and Gib Stovall, who lives in Idaho.