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Fallen Soldier Honored with Memorial Stone in Waterloo

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WATERLOO, Iowa -- A fallen soldier from Waterloo will have a permanent place of honor in front of a local football stadium.

Family and friends gathered at Waterloo Schools' Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon to unveil a memorial stone for Army Staff Sergeant Eric Steffeney.

Staff Sergeant Steffeney was a team leader of an explosive ordinance disposal unit, on his second tour during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A roadside bomb killed him while he was clearing land mines, February 23rd, 2005.

On the battlefield, Staff Sergeant Eric Steffeney disarmed more than 50,000 pieces of unexploded ordinance, 90 missiles and several improvised explosive devices.

"He was supremely intelligent. He had to have the fine motor skills of a surgeon while he cut wires to disarm and de-energize the initiators of those bombs," MAJ Garrett Gingrich, with the Iowa Army National Guard, said.

But before that, the football field was where the former center and West High grad, class of '94, took on anyone.

"He was a good player. I think he could have gone a long ways. He was a lot bigger than I was. I never understood that," said Gary Steffeney, Staff Sergeant Steffeney's father

Even though that big stature of Staff Sergeant Steffeney's never appeared on Memorial Stadium's field, his family said it was the perfect place to permanently honor his memory with a memorial stone.

"It's just really-you can't give it words, it means so much," Annette Crowe, the staff sergeant's mother, said.

It took several months to arrange the ceremony. Family friend Diana Hawker was behind the effort. She partnered with Flags for Freedom Outreach, a group that manufactures markers for fallen Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, like Staff Sergeant Steffeney.

"It's absolutely beautiful. The picture is as clear as can be. You'll notice the one side is straight, the other is curved. The curved part is for the fallen soldier," said Hawker.

The stone is a lot like Staff Sergeant Steffeney, himself—strong, reliable, even in the face of danger. Family and friends hope the marker will inspire others to be like Eric Steffeney as they head to the football field, or off to the rest of their lives.

"People are going to remember, and they want to remember someone who gave his life, the ultimate sacrifice for them," Gary Steffeney said.

Staff Sergeant Eric Steffeney was 28 when he died. He left behind a wife and three children.

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