Mullen Presents Silver Star to Fallen Sailor’s Widow
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 23, 2011 The nation’s top military officer today presented a posthumous Silver Star to the widow of a heroic Navy officer who was killed in Afghanistan.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses audience during the presentation ceremony of the Silver Star to Brooke Toner, wife of Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, 2011. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
During a ceremony at the Navy Memorial here, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told the hundreds of people in attendance that Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner faced death “tragically and heroically.”
Toner, 26, was deployed to Afghanistan with an embedded training team as garrison engineer mentor for the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps at Forward Operating Base Shaheen, near Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
He and three other officers were exercising, running around the camp’s perimeter on March 27, 2009, when an enemy fighter who had infiltrated the Afghan army attacked with a firearm.
As Toner’s Silver Star citation recounts, “In seconds, officers were shot and lying wounded on the ground. The gunman proceeded to shoot one of the wounded officers. … Toner, unarmed, verbally challenged the insurgent and continued to advance until he was fatally wounded.”
“I’ve been to enough [award presentations] and I’ve seen enough citations to know that he was basically walking straight into the enemy’s fire,” the chairman said of Toner’s actions. “We shouldn’t -- and we won’t -- ever, ever forget that service, that sacrifice,” the admiral added. “Because that is what makes us strong, as a military and as a nation.”
The chairman said today’s ceremony, attended largely by sailors in uniform, was particularly poignant for the Navy because Toner deployed as an individual augmentee, attached to an Army unit.
“I started that [program] when I was [chief of naval operations],” the admiral said.
Mullen said his experience in Vietnam and knowledge of ground operations made the decision to deploy individual sailors very simple.
“I knew the ground forces would bear the brunt, and every sailor I could get into the fight was going to relieve a soldier,” he said.
The Navy and Air Force have had thousands of their members “in the sand” of Iraq and Afghanistan, Mullen said.
“There are 12,000 there today, and that continues,” he said.
Brooke Toner, who accepted her husband’s Silver Star, spoke during the ceremony and thanked everyone who attended.
“Form the moment I got that knock on the door -- which was the worst day of my life -- I’ve been supported by my casualty assistance officer, by Admiral Mullen, by [Navy Rear Adm. Christopher J. Mossey, commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command], by all of our friends who have wrapped their arms around our family to support us all,” she said.
Toner was born Sept. 26, 1982, in Panorama City, Calif. He graduated from Westlake High School in 2001 and his family relocated to Narragansett, Rhode Island, in 2002.
In the summer of 2002, Toner entered the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. where he earned a bachelor of science degree in marine engineering and shipyard management.
In May 2006, Toner was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy. He graduated from Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer School in Port Hueneme, Calif., September 2006, and was assigned to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
He reported to Camp Mike Spann in Afghanistan in October 2008 for a one-year individual augmentee assignment.
Toner is survived by his wife, Brooke Toner; mother, Rebecca Toner; father, Francis Toner III; stepmother, Sharon; sister, Amanda; and brothers, John and Michael.
Toner was previously posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with valor. The Silver Star is the third highest combat military decoration.