U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 898-09
November 16, 2009
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Spc. Christopher J. Coffland, 43, of Baltimore, Maryland, died November 13, 2009, in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 323rd Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Meade, Maryland.
Funeral arrangements have been finalized for Army Specialist Chris Coffland of Baltimore, who was killed just two weeks after arriving in Afghanistan.Family members say Coffland was a free spirit whose patriotism led him to the military. He grew up in the Overlea-Fullerton area. After high school at Gilman and college at Washington and Lee, he traveled the world — living in places like Australia, West Africa and Finland.
He joined the Army one month before he turned 42 years old — the age limit for enlisting. His mother didn't want him to go. ‘I said have you visited Walter Reed? He said I have. And I said and you still want to go over there? And he said I do. At that point I had to respect what he wanted,’ his mother, Toni Coffland said.
After basic training Coffland became an intelligence officer. In Afghanistan he met with tribal leaders — working to win their trust. By e-mail, he told his parents he was safe. He told his friends the truth. ‘He had e-mailed some of his buddies and said IEDs are all over the place, it's only a matter of time,’ said his father, David Coffland.
And last week an improvised explosive device exploded near a vehicle Coffland was riding in, killing him along with two Marines. ‘He was driven by truth in his life; he was going to lead every day truthfully,’ said his sister, Lynn Coffland.
In the two decades since college, Coffland traveled, and worked a number of jobs — many of which involved helping young people. ‘A free spirit, tough as nails and would always give 100-percent of himself to other people,’ David Coffland said.
He turned down high-paying job offers, and he did not worry about what people thought of it. He told his family that he felt driven to serve, and after all those years of searching, the Army was the best place for him to do that. ‘He was a free man; he was a free spirit but he would conform when it was best for others and I feel would sacrificed to conform to do this for other people,’ his sister said.
She and her mother hope Chris Coffland's death might in some way convince political and military leaders to pull troops out of Afghanistan. ‘If he died to make us realize to pull out, then his death was worth it to him. He lived what he wanted to do,’ Lynn Coffland said.
His father — a Navy veteran — says if more troops are sent in, they need to be given a clearly-defined mission. ‘If we're going to do it, let's go do it. If we're not going to get involved in this, then get them out of there and provide economic support or whatever we can do to help people in repressed areas,’ he said.
The funeral for Chris Coffland will be held Saturday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore. He'll be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on December 1, 2009.
‘If all men were like my son, there wouldn't be any trouble in the world,’ his father said.
‘It's a void in all of our lives,’ added his mother. ‘A void in my heart that I will never, never, never get over. ‘in the words of our Lord, this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased'
Baltimorean dies in Afghanistan
Roadside bomb kills Christopher Coffland, 43, a man of many talents
By Julie Bykowicz
Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun
November 15, 2009
A 43-year-old Baltimore man who joined the Army Reserve just shy of the cutoff date for enlisting and was deployed to Afghanistan two weeks ago was killed there Friday in a roadside bombing, his family said.
Specialist Christopher James Coffland had spent his life counseling, coaching, traveling, and studying people and cultures, at one point pursuing anthropology graduate work that took him to Gabon, Africa. A month before he turned 42, the enlistment age limit, he signed up to become an Army intelligence specialist, relatives said.
“Desk jobs were not for him,” said Sharon Kroupa, a cousin from Baltimore, speaking on behalf of the family. “Everything he did had to have meaning.”
Coffland trained for more than a year for his mission in Afghanistan. He and two Marines were killed when the vehicle they were in exploded in the Sayed Abud region, where they were investigating another blast, relatives said. Coffland's body arrived Saturday night at Dover Air Force Base, according to base officials.
Coffland was a 1984 Gilman School graduate and earned an undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University in 1988.
His biography reads like that of several people combined: played professional football in Finland, coached football in Australia and lacrosse at Boys' Latin School of Maryland, worked as a university counselor at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, tended bar in Baltimore, studied anthropology at Washington State University, lived with Pygmies in Africa.
When he was in Baltimore, he stayed with his sister, Lynn Coffland, and her husband in Homeland. His parents, Dave and Toni Coffland, live on the Eastern Shore.
“He never married and had a family, so he was part of everyone's family,” Kroupa said.
Many of his Gilman friends drove in a caravan to Delaware to support the family after they received Coffland's body.
Willie Franklin, who was among them, said Coffland was a “selfless person who wanted to serve his country.”
“He knew the dangers involved,” he said. “But he was a very courageous person. He was absolutely the kind of guy, who, when the going gets tough, you want him on your side.”
Friends and relatives said Coffland had considered military service many times and had won an appointment to West Point but declined because of the six-year commitment.
“He liked the idea of service,” Kroupa said. “The idea of regiments and authority – not so much.”
About two years ago, Coffland talked with an Army Reserve recruiter who found his skills and interest in others cultures a good fit for military intelligence work.
Family members said he graduated at the top of his group in boot camp and at Army intelligence school.
Franklin, his high school classmate, met Coffland for lunch in Washington last month, just before he was deployed.
“He was confident and ready to go,” Franklin said. “He seemed fearless.”
For all his career changes, Kroupasaid, Coffland had “found a place where he could do something meaningful.”
“If this defines how he'll be remembered,” she added, referring to his military service, “I think he would be proud of that.”
In addition to his parents and sister, Lynn, a Baltimore designer, Coffland is survived by sisters Karen Bresnahan and Laurie Bartlett and a brother, David Coffland.
COFFLAND, CHRISTOPHER JAMES
- SPC US ARMY
- DATE OF BIRTH: 01/07/1966
- DATE OF DEATH: 11/13/2009
- BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 8955
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard