Citizens show support for fallen Army hero


Residents were on hand this weekend to join with friends and family members to send off a heroic hometown soldier to his final resting place.

Sgt. 1st Class Riley Gene Stephens, a 39-year-old Green Beret from Tolar with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), was killed in action in Afghanistan on Sept. 28.

Riley was salutatorian of Tolar High School’s Class of 1991. Among the medals he earned were a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

His flag-draped casket arrived at the Cleburne Regional Airport Saturday morning, then was brought to Wiley Funeral Home in Granbury at 12:30 p.m.

Riley’s funeral was held on Sunday afternoon before a capacity crowd of approximately 500 people at Tolar Baptist Church. It was followed by a procession to Dallas-Fort Worth Memorial Cemetery in Dallas.

The funeral procession was led by a Patriot Guard unit, as residents lined the highways and streets to pay their respects with U.S. flags – and holding their hands to their hearts.

The Department of Defense previously issued a statement that said Riley’s death pushed the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan to the 2,000 mark.

HE FOUGHT FOR OUR FREEDOM: Army Sgt. 1st Class Riley Stephens of Tolar, killed at age 39 in battle on Sept. 28 in Afghanistan, arrives Saturday morning at the Cleburne Regional Airport. The Green Berets prepare to take the casket to the awaiting hearse. Led by the Patriot Guard, the somber procession of family, friends and supporters traveled Highway 4 to Wiley’s Funeral Home in Granbury.