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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Afghan fatality was from Pearl Harbor

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Lt. j.g. Francis Toner

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A Pearl Harbor-based naval officer assigned to help train the Afghan military was fatally shot Friday by an Afghan National Army soldier, the Pentagon said.

Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV, 26, of Narragansett, R.I., was one of two U.S. sailors killed by the soldier, who opened fire on personnel assigned to Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-E-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Also killed was Navy Lt. Florence B. Choe, 35, of El Cajon, Calif., the Pentagon said.

Toner was born in Rhode Island and his family moved to Westlake Village, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb. The 2001 graduate of Westlake High School was a star running back for the school's championship football team as well as homecoming king.

After high school he was recruited to play football at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, where he earned a degree in Marine Engineering and Shipyard Management. He became a Navy officer in 2006.

He was deployed in October to Afghanistan, where he tried to teach soldiers and children how to play softball, a relative said.

"He'd send us these videos and it was kind of funny because they thought you were supposed to hit people with the ball," his aunt, Linda Moosekian, told the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper.

Toner had been scheduled to be back on the Mainland for leave with his wife, Brooke, tomorrow, said Dale Glenn, bishop for the Kailua 3rd Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Toner and his wife had been members of the church since they arrived in Kailua in 2006. The announcement of Toner's death at Sunday church service devastated the congregation, Glenn said.

"He sacrificed for others, not just in his death," Glenn said. "He was the guy, especially in our church ... who was always there."

Toner never turned down a request for help and would provide his truck for moves, cook at church barbecues and organize sports for the kids, Glenn said.

Toner and his wife taught Sunday school and the children loved them like they were their parents, the pastor said.

"We saw the kids sneaking out (of church after the announcement) and we found them in the back room crying," he said.

Toner was commissioned into the Navy in 2006 and entered training at Civil Engineer Corps Officer School, after which he went to Pearl Harbor.

Capt. Bret J. Muilenburg, commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii, said Toner was on a one-year assignment.

"He made a great difference while in Afghanistan just as he did while serving in Hawai'i," Muilenburg said. "Those he touched during his life will never forget his smile, sense of humor, competitive spirit, outstanding work ethic and love of country."

The U.S. military refuted initial reports that the sailors were killed by an insurgent wearing an Afghan army uniform.

"He was not killed by an insurgent as the initial press release has stated. He was killed by an Afghanistan army personnel," said Denise Emsley, spokeswoman for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii.

The incident is under investigation. Emsley said all Afghan army recruits are vetted prior to joining.

In addition to his wife, his survivors include his father and stepmother, Frank and Sharon Toner; his mother, Becky Toner; a sister, Amanda; and brothers, John and Michael.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.