David Russell Christoff
Sergeant, United States Marine Corps
No. 469-06 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DoD Identifies Marine Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of three Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Sergeant David R. Christoff, 25, of Rossford,
Ramirez died May 21, 2006, while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.
Christoff and Leusink both died May 22, 2006, from wounds received while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar province, Iraq. They were both assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Media with questions about Ramirez can call
the Camp Pendleton Public Affairs Office at (760) 725-5044. Media
with questions about Christoff and Leusink can call the Marine Corps Base
Kaneohe Bay Public Affairs Office at (808) 257-8870.
Two Hawaii Marines were killed Monday while on foot patrol in Iraq, bringing to 11 the number of Marines lost by the 3rd Battalion at a time of renewed violence against Americans.
Lance Corporal William J. "B. Jay" Leusink, 21, of Maurice, Iowa, was hit by a roadside bomb while patrolling in Haqlaniyah, Iraq, according to a statement from the family.
Sergeant David R. Christoff, 25, of Rossford, Ohio, was killed on his second deployment to Iraq with a Hawai'i-based unit. The popular Sergeant fought through the streets of Fallujah in late 2004 and early 2005 in one of the biggest battles of the Iraq War, and re-enlisted with the desire to go back to the country, his father said.
David Christoff Sr. said the roadside bomb that killed his son was bigger than most.
"He was pretty close to the blast," Christoff said.
The Ohio man said three other Marines also were killed and several were injured.
Details were still trickling back to Kane'ohe Bay yesterday.
"I can only confirm two (from Hawai'i) right now," base spokesman Second Lieutenant Binford Strickland said. "If there's a third or fourth one, I don't have any information in my hands."
Corporal J.J. Aguirre, a friend of Christoff and a Hawai'i Marine who lost so many friends in Fallujah in 2004 that "I don't even want to begin to count," said the Marine Sergeant's death is still hard to grasp.
"I can remember going to Hooters and eating with his whole squad," Aguirre, 24, said. "The guys would be like, 'Man, I'd follow that guy anywhere. If he said lay down here and open a field of fire with no cover, I'd do it.' "
Since arriving in Iraq in March, and through April 22, the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment had lost three Marines.
From April 28 through yesterday, at least eight have been killed.
The battalion headquarters is at Haditha Dam northwest of Baghdad, but its 900 Marines and companies are spread throughout the "Triad" of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana near the Euphrates River and down to the Baghdadi-Jubbah-Dulab region.
According to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, the 76 U.S. troops killed in Iraq in April is the highest total so far for 2006. At least 53 have been killed this month.
Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, commanding general of Multinational Corps-Iraq, said at a May 19, 2006, press briefing that the U.S. military is seeing a pattern "that we've seen many, many other times in Iraq."
In this case it accompanied the seating of Parliament.
"We've seen a pattern of the insurgents and the terrorists and the foreign fighters taking advantage of a key and critical period in Iraq," Chiarelli said.
David Christoff Sr. said if there was one word to describe his son, it was "charisma."
"He just shined. When he arrived in town, everyone was here to greet him," he said.
His grandmother said David Christoff Jr. left the University of Toledo and enlisted in the Marine Corps the day after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The Marine lost five of his buddies and took some shrapnel from a roadside bomb in Fallujah on November 12, 2004, his father said.
Friends say he received two Navy commendation medals for his actions on the deployment.
SECURING THE PEACE
David Christoff Sr. said "all those (Marines) are heroes to me. It's just incredible what they've done."
He said his son was disappointed in the way the media has portrayed U.S. troops in Iraq.
"They are not telling the whole story. They are not telling any of the good that is coming out of this," the elder Christoff said.
Among the Marines' jobs then and now is to train Iraqi security forces to take over.
Continuing that job was one of the reasons Christoff wanted to go back to Iraq. It was a condition of his re-enlistment that he be assigned to the 3rd Battalion and go to Iraq instead of going to Afghanistan with his former unit, the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, his father said.
He told his father that the area northwest of Baghdad was a lot quieter than Fallujah.
"It just seemed he was letting me believe that his job was much easier than it was before," Christoff Sr. said.
A BROTHER AND A HERO
A total of 11 Marines with the 3rd Battalion have been killed in Iraq, including three on April 28 that the Defense Department reported as being based out of Camp Pendleton in California.
The 3rd Marine Regiment now lists the Marines, who were likely attached to the 3rd Battalion for its Iraq deployment, on its Web site.
Sergeant Edward G. Davis III, 31, of Antioch, Illnois; Cpl. Brandon M. Hardy, 25, of Cochranville, Pennsylovania; and Sergeant Lea R. Mills, 21, of Brooksville, Florida, died while conducting combat operations in Anbar Province, the Defense Department said.
Aguirre said Christoff was "hyped" to go to Marine Security Guard school after returning from Iraq, and then go wherever that assignment took him.
Sergeant Hector Zelaya, 31, said "it wasn't a friend I lost; I lost a brother" with Christoff's death.
"I've been through everything with him, from the beginning of boot camp to (school of infantry), from the Philippines and Korea and Thailand to Fallujah. He's my little brother," Zelaya said. "He was a true leader, and he had the confidence to stand alone."
Christoff's father said his son's body will be back in Ohio for a service over the Memorial Day weekend, and then he'll be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
"Where else do you bury a hero?" asked his
The parents of a Marine killed last week in Iraq accepted Purple Hearts at a brief service Monday in northwest Ohio. "It's going to be a while before anybody can take this out of the grip of my hand,'' David Christoff Sr. said, clutching a box containing the medal. "Right now, this is the closest thing I have to him.''
Sergeant David Christoff Jr., 25, and another Marine in his unit were killed by a roadside bomb during a foot patrol May 22 in Al Anbar province. It was his second tour of duty, and at least the second time he had been injured.
Christoff graduated in 1999 from Shawnee High School near Springfield in western Ohio, where his mother, Amy, and stepfather live. He left the University of Toledo and enlisted the day after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, his grandmother said last week.
Branden Skabla grew up with Christoff and joined the Marines with him. "It can't be real, but I know it is,'' Skabla said, dressed in the Marine Corps dress uniform. "I keep waiting for that phone call from him to tell me that he's coming home. I'll be waiting for that phone call for the rest of my life.''
Christoff is to be buried Wednesday in Arlington
In many ways, Marine Sergeant David R. Christoff Jr. was not unlike the thousands of other young men who joined the military because they were haunted by the images of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
His desire to serve continued even after he was wounded in Fallujah. Instead of returning home when his four-year commitment ended in November, he reenlisted and returned to Iraq for a second tour, telling his family that he wanted to help finish what had been started.
On May 22, 2006, Christoff, 25, of Rossford, Ohio, was killed by a roadside bomb while on a foot patrol in Anbar province.
Yesterday, more than 100 mourners gathered on a grassy knoll at Arlington National Cemetery to pay tribute to a man they called a humble hero.
Standing among hundreds of stark white tombstones, seven Marines fired a three-volley salute into the humid breeze. A bugler played taps, and Christoff's parents were handed American flags.
Christoff is the 238th person killed in the war in Iraq to be buried at Arlington. He was assigned to the 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force based at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Christoff was a 1999 graduate of Shawnee High School, near Springfield, Ohio, where he was a member of the golf team. He enrolled at the University of Toledo in fall 2000 but left after a semester.
After working a variety of odd jobs, Christoff told his family that he heard his calling after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. He and his best friend, Branden Skabla, 25, decided to join the Marines.
"[After the attacks] the only thing he could do was join the military," his father, David Christoff, told the Toledo Blade. "He does things all the way, and he joined the Marine Corps to get the guys who knocked those buildings down."
During his first tour, Christoff was among the soldiers who pushed into Fallujah. He was hit by shrapnel and received a Purple Heart. But the wounds did nothing to dissuade him from volunteering for a second tour in Iraq. Skabla chose to leave the Marines after his second tour ended.
Skabla, who lives in Toledo with his wife and son, told local reporters that Christoff was his child's godfather. Growing up, he and Christoff were like brothers. He was with Christoff's father when the Marine's belongings arrived from Hawaii. Included were two letters, one to each of his parents, Skabla said.
"You can only say, 'Don't cry,' although you know that's impossible," Skabla told the Toledo Blade. "But you don't want them to be sad, because you're doing what you believe in."
In the letters, Christoff asked his family to pray for those still serving in the war. He also told them he was proud of his accomplishments in Iraq. Christoff received eight medals, according to news reports.
Christoff's father last spoke with his son May 18. He told the Dayton Daily News that Christoff wanted to know how the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James was doing in the NBA playoffs.
Christoff's mother, Amy Hogan, told the newspaper that her son "really believed in what they are doing over there." He told her that he was seeing less combat during his second tour but that bombs were the invisible enemy.
Christoff was his father's only child and his namesake.
"Half my heart is missing now," he told the
Rossford father who lost his son in Iraq talks about war
Posted: March 19, 2008
Many military families support the president when it comes to the war, and they'll tell you they believe freedom isn't free.
On this five-year anniversary, Shelley Brown talked with a local father who lost his son in Iraq.
25-year-old Marine Sergeant David Christoff, Jr. -- a native of Rossford -- was killed during a patrol in Iraq in May 2006. He signed up with the Marines the day after 9-11.
His father -- even though he's lost the one person that meant the most to him -- represents the conflict of war. He's hoping the U.S. can complete its mission in Iraq. David Christoff, Sr. tells News 11's Shelley Brown "personally, I've lost my way."
There isn't a day that goes by that David doesn't think about his son whose life was taken in a roadside bombing. Since then, his father has been to Arlington National Cemetery more than a dozen times, and he says it doesn't get easier. "I thought the worst was behind me burying him in Arlington and all of that. It was unbelievable. I guess I'm still kind of in shock a little bit.
Shelley Brown asked,"Does it seem like five years to you?
David Christoff answered, "It doesn't seem like five years."
Five years since the U.S. led its invasion into Iraq. Parents like Christoff -- even though he's lost his only child -- represent the conflict of war and believe America should still stay the course. David says, "They want to complete their mission. Let em. Let em finish for the children of Iraq and children of the United States."
And his thoughts on the anti-war demonstrations? "I am against those people. These young men are there making it safe for us. I mean how did you sleep last night?"
Last memorial day, Christoff had a chance to
meet with President Bush. David says, "He cried with us and laughed a little
with us." David also says he supports the president and the troops. If
he could send out one message to others, it would be this: Hug your kids.
That's what I want to tell America. Hug your kids because they could be
taken like that."
December 22, 2008
Fallen Marine's father finds friend in unlikely place
Son's honor spurs acts of charity
By ERICA BLAKE
Courtesy of the Toledo Blade
It was a chance encounter.
David Christoff, Sr., of Rossford travels as often as he is able to Arlington National Cemetery where his son, Marine Corps Sergeant David Christoff, Jr., is buried. He shares stories. He cries. He plays his guitar and sings songs.
Baltimore natives Jane Fetter and her husband, Frank, make similar trips to the 200-acre cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. They enjoy its serenity and beauty. They pay their respects. They visit the graves of soldiers whom they do not know.
They go to Arlington National Cemetery, but for very different reasons.
That is until a few years ago when their paths collided.
A funeral procession diverted the Fetters off course and into Section 60 - the final resting place of hundreds of American troops who perished during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It was a chance encounter between Mr. Christoff and the Fetters.
But it was a meeting that has forever touched their lives and reminded Mr. Christoff that, despite his tragic loss, he still is blessed by the kindness of others.
He also is sharing his blessings - and sharing his son's memory.
Mr. Christoff recently donated money to the Marines Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program, raised through an annual golf tournament in his son's name. The tournament is one way Mr. Christoff is able to keep his son's name and passions alive.
And this week he received a package in the mail that contained photographs of his son's grave.
The pictures were taken by Mrs. Fetter, who sought him out a few weeks ago knowing how beautiful Arlington is at Christmas - and knowing that Mr. Christoff likely would not be able to see it.
She offered him a picture. And she promised that the picture would show a wreath that is placed by volunteers on the military graves.
This simple wreath at Sergeant Christoff's grave was put there by the Fetters themselves, who volunteered to disperse the wreaths to ensure that he would receive one.
"She told me the whole story about the wreath. I just broke down. It's a very special lady to do that," Mr. Christoff said from his Rossford home recently. "You know, God Bless America. It's all pretty incredible."
Sergeant Christoff was killed May 22, 2006, during his second tour in Iraq. Mr. Christoff said the terrorist attacks in 2001 prompted his son to join the Marines and his desire to help people - including children - compelled him to remain in service.
Mr. Christoff says he has "a bruised heart" and the pain he feels over the loss of his son is often overwhelming.
The holidays are difficult, he said.
But through an annual golf tournament he organizes in his son's name, he is able to continue Sergeant Christoff's desire to help children by donating the proceeds - this year a total of $4,527 - to the annual Toys for Tots drive.
Mrs. Fetter, 68, said in a telephone interview that she learned after reaching out to Mr. Christoff earlier this month that there would be 10,000 wreaths available for distribution to Arlington's more than 300,000 graves. Sergeant Christoff's grave was not slated to be decorated, she said.
Early on December 13, the Fetters drove the hour or so to Arlington to be among the nearly 3,000 volunteers who distribute wreaths donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine.
"My husband and I were told that if we got
to the cemetery at 7 a.m. on Saturday, we would be among the volunteers
that help distribute the 10,000 wreathes. Maybe, I thought, I could get
one for David," she said in a recent
Mrs. Fetter learned after arriving at the cemetery that volunteers could take a wreath to the grave of someone special.
"We distributed the wreaths as we had volunteered and then walked to Section 60 and found David's grave," she said. "We placed the simple, fresh wreath on his grave."
That action offered Sergeant Christoff's father, so many miles away, a bit of comfort.
Coupled with the increasing success of the golf tournament - to be held again on May 16 at the Heatherdowns Country Club - Mr. Christoff said the support of the community, his family, and a total stranger has shown him that even during the hardest days, he's not alone.
Dawn Heisler, director of the Heroes In Action support group, said "support is just totally needed in times like this."
And when that support comes from a stranger, it shows family members that their incredible sacrifice is appreciated.
"The family makes a big sacrifice for their country as well as the soldier or Marine," Ms. Heisler said.
"I know it's been a real struggle for David's father. They were very close. To have people supporting him through this is what is going to help him get through," she said.
Mrs. Fetter understands that well. She said that she takes advantage of every opportunity to thank a U.S. serviceman, and she urges others to do the same. It's an easy action and can be done for free but will generate a lasting impact on the person being thanked, she said.
As for Mr. Christoff, a man whose sorrowful tunes on his guitar led her to stop a few years ago at his son's grave, she wishes peace for Christmas through a photographic opportunity to be close to his son.
"I sure can give this father a long-distance hug," she said.
A Marine Corps honor guard carries the casket of Marine Sergeant David Russell Christoff, of Springfield, Ohio,
during funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery, 31 May 2006
Photo Courtesy of Holly, July 2006
Photo Courtesy of Roxsanne Wells-Layton, 10 June 2006