Navy Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV, 26, Westlake Village; killed by Afghan soldier
He was the person people always wanted to be around.
A standout football player and homecoming king, Francis L. Toner IV had a smile for everyone at Westlake High School in Westlake Village.
“The kid was pure goodness,” said Christina Harrison, who taught him U.S. government in his senior year.
Toner, a Navy lieutenant junior grade, and another Navy officer were shot and killed March 27 when an Afghan National Army soldier opened fire at Forward Operating Base Shaheen near Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan’s Balkh province, which borders Uzbekistan. He was 26.
Navy Lt. Florence B. Choe, 35, of El Cajon, Calif., also died in the attack.
Toner had been in Afghanistan for five months and was due home last Wednesday to visit his wife, Brooke, in Idaho, and other family members, said his aunt, Linda Moosekian of Newbury Park.
Moosekian helped care for Toner as a young child after his parents separated. Even when he joined the Navy, she said, he often would surprise her with an unannounced visit.
“I would come home and he’d be sitting there in his full dress uniform with this smile,” she said. “Now I’d give anything for him to walk through that back door.”
Although the military gave Toner’s hometown as Narragansett, R.I., he grew up in Westlake Village before moving east to attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.
Toner, who graduated from Westlake High in 2001, loved sports and was a running back for the school’s championship football team. His former coach, James Benkert, remembered him as a star athlete, “very popular, always smiling and really the best our society has to offer.”
A Mormon, Toner also was deeply religious, though he rarely discussed his faith with others, teachers and family members said.
Toner’s prowess on the football field earned him a full scholarship to the Merchant Marine Academy. While there, he met his wife, who was working as a nanny and studying in Rhode Island.
Although Moosekian described her family as very patriotic, she said her nephew’s decision to join the Navy straight out of college “floored” her.
“Truthfully,” she said, “I couldn’t see him pulling the trigger on anybody. . . . I think that alone would have killed him.”
But Toner appeared happy with the decision. When his old high school team came to play in Hawaii, Toner, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor, went to the game and chatted with his former teacher on the sidelines.
“He was so proud of what he was doing and so proud of serving his country,” Harrison said.
His letters and e-mails from Afghanistan were brimming with excitement. Toner qualified as a naval engineer but was assigned to help train Afghan security forces at Forward Operating Base Shaheen. He told his family that hundreds were signing up for both the Afghan police and army.
“The Afghan who shot him made a big mistake because he would have done more good for the people in the village and that community than probably all the soldiers combined on that base,” Moosekian said. “He had already had huge shipments of sneakers sent over.”
Funeral arrangements have not been announced. Toner’s wish was to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his father and stepmother, Frank and Sharon Toner; his mother, Becky Toner; two brothers, Michael and John; and a sister, Amanda.
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