Mark Stoney: From Gear Head to American Patriot

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Mark Stoney: From Gear Head to American Patriot

This is a story I wrote in January 2009 about an old friend of mine. I didn't have it published anywhere, so I figured it would get a few clicks here. I do not have a photo of Mark in his element, so hopefully the description within this story is enough. I hope you enjoy.

 

 

 

Mark Stoney was sent to the sidelines injured in every sport he played as a youth.  First, it 

was a torn right rotator cuff after attempting to throw out a runner at third base from right field in 

baseball.  Next, it was a sprained vertebrate after crumbling under his opponent in a high school 

wrestling match.  Finally, it was a few torn ligaments in his left knee on the opening kickoff of 

his senior football season.  All these injuries disappointingly concluded his career in each sport.  

Maybe he would have gone on to put out more speedsters around the horn.  Perhaps he could 

have been an All-American wrestler or a Butkus Award-winning linebacker at some major 

college football program.  It’s all hypothetical, but it doesn’t perturb Stoney.  He found his 

sporting vocation well before the aforementioned recreations.  The discovery was go-kart racing, 

and he stumbled upon it just before he wheeled out of control.  

 

“I was actually kind of a troubled child,” Stoney said. “When I was younger, I got in a lot 

of trouble, stayed in trouble in school and away from school.”  

 

Ronnie Jackson, a fortuitous Sunday school teacher from his childhood, put the brakes on 

Stoney’s uncontrollable spiral before he hit the wall.  “He talked to my parents and was like, ‘I 

see your boy is having some trouble, he’s always getting in with the wrong people and 

everything.  Let me take him for a weekend at the race track and I’ll bet you I can straighten him 

out,’ ” Stoney said.  He tagged along unwillingly.  A weekend of turning wrenches in the pits and 

greasing wheel fittings in the garage didn’t appeal to him.  But because of his hard work, Jackson 

allowed him to take one of the sluggish go-karts for a quick spin after the races.  

 

“I had so much fun,” Stoney said.  “Have you ever had so much fun that your mouth is 

dry and you’re just shaking with excitement?”  

 

From that point forward, Stoney was hooked.  He was developing a love for racing in 

various ways.  He continued his racing trips with Jackson to the Carolinas, Ohio, Wisconsin, 

Georgia, Indiana and Florida.  He repaired minor engine problems the go-karts may have 

suffered on the weekends.  When he wasn’t on the road with Jackson, he cut grass to make 

money to one day purchase a kart of his own.  Before he could conjure up a couple hundred 

bucks, though, he lost his inspiration.  Jackson, racing at Summit Point, W.V., in July 2001, was 

killed after crashing his kart.  Stoney doesn’t remember why he wasn’t with Jackson that 

weekend, but recalls learning of the catastrophe from afar.  

 

“It was really sad and really hard because he had come and stepped into my life and 

become a mentor to me,” Stoney said.  “He was kind of like a second father figure to me.  He 

took me by the horns and straightened me out.  I went to the funeral and everything and the 

grieving process and at that point I was kind of faced with a dilemma.  I just lost one of the most 

important people in my life to something that I really loved and he loved it, too, so I was faced 

with a decision of whether or not to go ahead and keep on doing it.”  

 

It was a trying choice for Stoney, to carry a heavy heart at speeds in excess of 100 mph 

around race courses all over America, or to park his kart permanently.  After wavering back and 

forth between the two, Stoney came to a firm conclusion.  “I decided that the best thing for me to 

do was to keep on doing what I was doing,” he said.  “I’d go ahead and buy the kart and start 

racing and kind of carry on his legacy because he was one of the best.  Everybody at the track 

knew him because he just won.  Very, very rarely did he ever lose.  I decided it would be a shame 

for him to put so much work into me to just walk away from it.”  

 So he bought what he could afford.  “The first one I had was a Margay,” Stoney said.  “It 

was pretty old.  It was a piece of junk, but I raced it for two or three years until I had saved up 

enough money to buy a new one.”  

 

When he bought the new one, he didn’t have a lot of time to break it in.  Like carrying on 

Jackson’s legacy, Stoney felt there was another thing he had to do.  “I joined (the military) April 

11, 2006, got shipped off to boot camp May 23, 2006, and graduated Sept. 1,” he said.  “I was 

deployed in September 2007.  We started training for the deployment in June at Camp Shelby in 

Mississippi for mobilization for three months, and then we left in September to go overseas.”  

 

Once settled in the most famous foreign country of the 21st century, Iraq, Stoney realized 

he was more at home than he first anticipated.  “Life is just so easy because your food is there,” 

he said.  “You eat, you sleep, you do your job.  That’s life in Iraq.”  

 

His title was infantryman, a job he said required him to patrol streets, hike through woods 

and perform man-to-man combat, if necessary.  However, he ended up doing something he was 

familiar with before he even enlisted.  “Our job over there was security for convoys,” Stoney 

said.  “We rode in Humvees with 30 to 50 street convoys up and down the streets of Iraq.  We did 

a lot of the work on our Humvees and me being pretty mechanically minded already, I kind of 

took charge of my truck and did most of the maintenance on it.”  Nurturing his truck is what 

Stoney did to pass the time when there wasn’t much going on.  Sports such as softball and 

basketball were celebrated by his comrades throughout army bases in Iraq, but he was more 

captivated by the guns and trucks.  “I didn’t play because I’m horrible at both basketball and 

softball,” Stoney said.  “Our company actually had an organized team and they’d go play 

tournaments and some other teams from Iraq, teams from Kuwait, from these army bases here 

and there.”  

 

Life in Iraq was smoothly passing along until April 2008.  Stoney’s convoy was just south 

of Baghdad, heading for a destination he doesn’t recall now.  It was 3 a.m., and it seemed as 

though the road simply led to nothingness.  Then, in the calmness of the early morning, the 

silence was broken.  “We were about to get to where we were going and all of a sudden all hell 

breaks loose and we’re in the middle of a firefight,” Stoney said.  The Humvee at the front of the 

long convoy line was hit with an improvised explosive device, disabling the truck and 

concussing the driver.  Stoney described the scene as a quick flash of green light across the sky, 

revealing small units of Iraqis firing automatic weapons at the convoy.  Without hesitation, 

Stoney readied his automatic rifle, deactivating the safety switch and firing into the darkness.  “I 

put out about 300 rounds of 50 caliber and completely demolished this house,” Stoney said.  “It 

was scary but exciting at the same time.”  

 

The convoy forced the Iraqis to retreat back into the blackness.  A month later, Stoney 

was back in the states, safe and sound.  His service overseas was over, but the display of his 

patriotism was only just beginning.  First, it was showing off a vibrant tattoo of a bald eagle 

against a waving American flag on his right arm.  Stoney actually had it prior to his stint in Iraq.  

After experiencing Iraq firsthand, he felt it necessary to pursue more patriotic body ink.  Now 

situated on the opposite arm are two golden, crossed rifles, the infantry branch insignia.  “It’s just 

two old school rifles and every infantryman knows what that is and it means something to them,” 

Stoney said.  Rounding out the trio is a tattoo that stretches from just beneath Stoney’s heart 

down to his waistline.  The infantryman’s creed, a 164-word promise to do anything and 

everything necessary for America, descends in black cursive over Stoney’s ribcage.  “It was 

really painful where it is but that’s what infantrymen live by, that creed,” Stoney said.  

 

Pain, obviously, is something Stoney has felt a lot of.  Whether it’s emotional pain from 

the untimely passing of a mentor, physical pain from a go-karting crash that sends him sliding on 

his back on sweltering pavement, or homesickness from being in an unfamiliar country, Stoney 

feels prevailing over those hardships is just something he had to do.  “When Ronnie died in that 

accident, that was some adversity I had to overcome to continue doing what I was doing, what I 

wanted to do and what I loved,” he said.  “Being overseas in and of itself is adversity because 

you’re away from your family and away from the things you’re familiar with.  There’s always 

that chance that something could happen and you might not make it back so that was always in 

the back of my mind.  That’s some pretty serious adversity that you have to overcome.  Just do 

what you gotta do, you know?” 

 

 

 

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