By Charlotte Underwood 

LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – General Carl W. Stiner has influenced and impacted lives across Campbell County, the country and the world. 

A Four Star General, Stiner had 70,000 United States Military Special Forces under his command. For many years, he was one of America’s top leaders, but “still the kind of guy who could sit across from you and have a hamburger … or work out in the hay field.” 

Stiner would even say of himself that he was “just a country boy trying to do the right thing.” 

“He did not let his importance get in the way of Gen. Stiner or Carl Stiner as the individual,” said Pyro Shows owner Lansden Hill, who knew the General both personally and professionally.

Lansden Hill was honored Thursday night by the Campbell County Chamber of Commerce. While accepting the “Veteran Owned Business of the Year” award, Hill devoted much of his acceptance speech time to sharing thoughts of Gen. Carl Stiner.

Hill said he was always impressed at how the General could transition from being a Four Star General and one of America’s top leaders to being “just Carl Stiner, who could have a hamburger with you at lunch and know everybody and talk to everybody.”

Regardless of his rank, the General was still “Carl Stiner, the son of Emmett Stiner who was raised on the farm and farming was always one of his first loves. 

“Gen. Stiner was an amazing individual and a natural leader. I don’t think he ever set out to be career military, he attended what is now Tennessee Tech and studied animal husbandry. His family were farmers at heart, and I think that’s what he went to pursue, but through his engagement in ROTC, he had a skill and went into the military. It started out in 1958 I believe, going down to Fort Benning where he launched an amazing career,” Hill said. 

Fort Benning is also where Stiner met his wife Sue. 

“One of the stories he (General Stiner) would tell is that he got his orders to dispatch from Tennessee Tech to Fort Benning and the next day he had a friend ask him to go to the swimming pool at Fort Benning, well he goes and they walk into the pool, and there she was, right to his left. Carl said Sue was there and she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen and he would often say marrying her was the best decision he ever made,” Hill recalled.

It was through Sue that Hill got to really know the General, as she came to work at Pyro Shows as his executive assistant for more than 10 years.

When the General retired out of the military in 1993 and came back to Campbell County, Hill was “fortunate enough to meet and hire Sue.”

“I told him one time, Carl I know you’ve been through every officer candidate school the military has to offer, but this lady right over here has been the key to your greatness. She was so thoughtful, so organized, she was obviously a blessing to him, but she was also a big blessing to me,” Hill said. 

It was through his relationship working with Sue every day that Hill got to know the General “better and better.”

Gen. Stiner accompanied Hill on a fireworks show in Washington D.C. in 1995 where Hill met the Military Attache for the United Arab Emirates Embassy, and they asked him to do their National Day show because his company was doing the American National Day Show. 

“I told them I appreciate your consideration, but we would have to get our explosives half way around the world and that would be very cumbersome and expensive and complicated and I’m just not sure and he asked is the ‘American show a big show?’ and I told him yes, it’s one of the biggest in the world and he said they wanted their show to be three times bigger than the American show and I said, I’m your boy.” Hill said with a laugh. But a county boy from Campbell County was not familiar with the customs of the Middle East.

Gen. Stiner escorted Hill through the planning process and through the cultural differences and through everything that Hill needed to know to be successful shooting a major fireworks show in the Middle East. The General traveled over with Hill and guided him through the whole process. 

“As I told our people, technically I was in charge, it was my company doing the show, but the real leader was Gen. Carl Stiner. He was a rare and inspirational human being. He was always on task, he was always on target, he was always organized,” Hill said.

According to Hill, it was Stiner’s leadership that stood out most of all about him. 

“When he walked into a room, whether a banquet hall, a military ceremony or his own kitchen table, you could feel he was in charge, no matter what room, he was the leader, you just felt his presence,” Hill said. 

Stiner was the second commander of our country’s special forces with 70,000 special force troops of different military branches under his direction.

“He engaged in that responsibility with all the nobility and ethics that you would expect, but all the tenacity that a man of that stature with a job like that has to have to be successful,” Hill said. 

He also said the success of Pyro Shows over the years has been indirectly and directly the result of the influence of Gen. Carl Stiner.

“I knew him professionally, I knew him personally and I am so proud that I can have called him my friend.” Hill said. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 06/10/2022-6AM)

2 Replies to “Stiner was a ‘country boy at heart’”

  1. Thank you Lansden Hill.Im sure Gen.Carl Stiner loved you and was also proud to call you his FRIEND! Such a great TRIBUTE to a WONDERFUL MAN!!!!

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