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Greenville Armory now carries hero's name

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The North Carolina National Guard Greenville Readiness Center on Sunday was named for 1st Lt. Ashley White-Stumpf, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

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By Brian Wudkwych
The Daily Reflector

Monday, April 9, 2018

White letters on a large blue sign that read “1LT Ashley I. White-Stumpf Readiness Center” now alert visitors to the Pitt-Greenville Airport about a young woman who lived and died for her country.

White-Stumpf, 24, a member of the all-woman Cultural Support Team attached to a Joint Special Operations Task Force, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in 2011.

The Ohio woman’s life is the subject of a New York Times best seller, and she will be portrayed by Reese Witherspoon in an upcoming movie. And her legacy has lived on in other ways thanks to family and friends and now the U.S. Army.

On Sunday’s windy afternoon, White-Stumpf’s name was added to the sign in front of the Army National Guard armory off north Memorial Boulevard to signify yet another honor for the fallen war hero. 

“It’s hard for us because we miss her so much,” mother Deborah White said just moments after helping unveil the sign. “But it is such an honor that they remember her like this. To remember the soldiers that fight for our country is very, very important to us.” 

The small ceremony and unveiling was one of many happening throughout the state at other National Guard armories as part of an initiative to rename the bases after for soldiers with local or significant ties.

For White-Stumpf, that meant a little bit of both. She spent time at the armory in Goldsboro and her training in cultural support is representative of the hallmark program at the Greenville location.

Most importantly, she made the ultimate sacrifice to protect what North Carolina National Guard Brigadier General Allen Boyette called our “American way of life.” That alone, he said, is worth the upmost recognition. 

“The major significance is that we don’t ever forget,” Boyette said. “What service members have done over the years to support our state and our nation is just tremendous. This is just one small step to recognize the soldier and her family and what they have given up so that the rest of us can enjoy the American way of life that we so appreciate.”

There is more to White-Stumpf’s story than that of a fallen soldier. Her mother gave a tearful speech remembering how her daughter grew up: athletic, ambitious and a natural beauty who was driven to service and her trailblazing path as one of the first members in an all-female unit that assisted Special Operations forces during the Afghanistan War. 

White-Stumpf and her unit were tasked with building relationships with Afghan citizens at a time when women were officially banned from combat. White said she saw bravery in her daughter, and it was confirmed when members of the extraction team that came to rescue her and others relayed that White-Stumpf had refused morphine tablets so she could stay aware of what was happening as soldiers worked to save her life. 

It is that service, one that previously was unattainable for women, that White is most proud of, and it is that service that has caught the eye of authors and film producers as well, she said.

“She has a legacy for women,” White said. “The one thing Ashley told me was, ‘Mom, when I’m in the service, I’m a soldier, not a female. And my partner, if he’s a male, he is not just a male. We’re both soldiers in the battlefield fighting for that cause, because gender gets in the way.’”

Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly was one of a handful of local residents who attended the ceremony. He said the sign is an important way to remember White-Stumpf and others who paid the ultimate price.

“It’s great to see this,” Connlley said. “She was an absolute patriot and we’re very proud that her name will be on this building.” 

White flew in to attend the service from her home in Marlboro, Ohio, where her daughter was known best for her love of cross country running.

When she returns to the airport for her flight back, like other visitors and locals who use the facility, she will pass by the sign that bears her daughter’s name. 

To White, the name is important only in that it signifies a greater purpose, she said.

“The family name doesn’t mean anything that fantastic,” she said. “It’s just an honor to know that she became such a wonderful person.” 

Contact Brian Wudkwych at bwudkwych@reflector.com or 252-329-9567 and follow @brianwudkwych on Twitter.

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