By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 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.
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
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
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
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,
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
Sean P Eagan
Former Chairman American Cold War Veterans
Life Member Veterans of Foreign Wars