Born: September 26, 1982
Fallen: March 27, 2009
Lieutenant Junior Grade Francis L. Toner IV from Narragansett, RI was assigned to Combined Security Transition Command at Camp Shaheen, Mazar-E-Sharif, Afghanistan. He became a fallen hero on March 27, 2009 from injuries he sustained after an Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on the personnel assigned to his unit.
Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Francis L. Toner IV loved people, his country and God. Stationed in northern Afghanistan, he always asked for shoes and clothes for the poorest Afghan children when he wrote or phoned home. He taught them how to play softball, too. Francis, in Afghanistan for five months, worked as a garrison engineer at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-e-Sharif.
Toner, a 2001 graduate of Westlake High School, in the Los Angeles suburb of Westlake Village, was a star running back for the school’s championship football team. The rugged youth was named homecoming king his senior year. More than 2,000 girls voted for him, his stepmother said. He loved the beach, snowboarding and racing his BMX bike as a kid.
Toner’s prowess on the football field earned him a full scholarship to the Merchant Marine Academy. He also played lacrosse and ran track at the Academy. While there, he decided to join the Navy. When he graduated from the Academy in 2006, he joined the Civil Engineer Corps. “He was going to do a full 20 years. His long-term goal was to someday work at the Pentagon. He loved, loved the Navy, loved the Seabees and he never had any thoughts about doing anything else,” his stepmother said.
While at the Academy, he also fell in love with his future wife. The two married in San Diego. Francis and his new wife moved to Narragansett, to be near family in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey. “Frankie”, as his family affectionately called him, considered Rhode Island home while attending school in New York.
“We never fought,” recalls his sister. “He never raised his voice. He was the perfect brother.” He was also thoughtful. He dreamed of coming back to Rhode Island where he could work with his father, buying and selling rehabbed homes.
While he was deployed he asked the officers at Camp Mike Spann to fly the American flag in honor of his little brother who had just turned 9. Toner mailed the folded flag to his brother, along with a birthday greeting. “I hope you enjoy and respect this flag that was flown in your honor over a country at war,” he wrote. At the bottom of the greeting, he added a final thought. “Wish I could be there to give this to you. But I’ll be home before you know it and it will be like I never left.”
He was the person people always wanted to be around.
“He was so proud of what he was doing and so proud of serving his country,” a teacher recalls said. His letters and e-mails from Afghanistan were brimming with excitement.
Toner was off duty jogging with some friends on base when an Afghan soldier began firing on two Navy nurses running ahead of him. Toner was behind the shooter. The former WHS state championship fullback ran up and tried to tackle him to prevent him from shooting his friends and was unfortunately struck by the gunman.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his father, his mother, his stepmother, two brothers, and a sister.
Lieutenant Junior Grade Francis L. Toner IV was posthumously awarded the Silver Star on September 26, 2011.