U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 368-07
April 2, 2007
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Specialist Christopher M. Wilson, 24, of Chicopee, Massachusetts, died March 29, 2007, in Korengal Outpost, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from a rocket propelled grenade explosion. Wilson was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York.
For more information in regard to this release the media can contact the Fort Drum public affairs office at (315) 772-8286.
NOTE: Specialist Wilson was posthumously promoted to Sergeant.
Even as a little boy, Army Specialist Christopher M. Wilson always wanted to be a soldier, his older sister, Katrina Evans, said this morning.
“He was strong enough that others didn’t have to be,” Evans, 29, said. “He’s always carried the weight of things for people.”
In the rugged, isolated outpost where he was stationed in Afganistan, he said longed to be with his 4-year-old daughter, Jayden. On his Web site, he said his biggest fear was not coming home to her.
Evans said Wilson planned to take care of the girl, who was living with relatives in Maine, when he returned from his posting. He looked forward to taking her to Disney World this summer.
A reunion with his daughter was not to be. The Chicopee resident, who spent a year at North Quincy High School, was killed Thursday at an outpost on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border that is frequently under heavy fire from the Taliban. Wilson died of wounds he received when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near him.
The 24-year-old infantryman had been scheduled to return home in February, but his division’s deployment was extended until June. The military has been beefing up its presence in the remote Kunar province where Wilson was killed in an effort to combat a Taliban resurgence.
Evans last spoke with Wilson on February 19, 2007, she said.
“He told me that it was hard out there because he had lost so many friends, and he just hoped to make it home,” she said.
Evans said that even though she was five years older than her brother, he was her “hero.” She had reservations about his decision to join the military, but said she knew there was no stopping him.
When her fourth son was born, she said she and her husband decided to give him Wilson’s last name.
“I said, ‘What if Chris never has a little boy, then the last name ends with Chris.’”
Wilson was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, nicknamed Task Force Spartan. About 3,500 soldiers from Task Force Spartan are serving in Afghanistan.
The division is based at Fort Drum in New York.
Benjamin Able, a spokesman for the base, said the outpost in Kunar province where Wilson was stationed had been under substantial fire for a day or two.
“I think they were in a pretty heavy gunfight at the time,” he said.
About 3,500 soldiers from Task Force Spartan are serving in Afganistan.
Able described the outpost as being in “the middle of nowhere, a very rugged and remote kind of place.”
Wilson was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
“Chris joined the Army because he was a caring person and loved to help people out,” said Eric Boisjolie, 20, a friend of Wilson’s from South Hadley, near Chicopee.
Boisjolie and other friends of Wilson said that when he wasn’t training, he most enjoyed partying and hanging out with his friends.
“He didn’t like the fact that he went so long without seeing his friends and family,” Boisjolie said.
Amy Hogan, a friend from Oswego, N.Y, about an hour south of Fort Drum, said Wilson had hoped to be home in time to attend her June wedding, teasing her “it’s not a wedding unless Wilson’s there.”
“And he was right about that,” she said.
Monique LaRiviere of South Hadley, the mother of Tom Burke, another friend of Wilson’s, recalled him as “very friendly, very outgoing.”
“He left a lot of friends behind,” she said.
LaRiviere said she believed Wilson moved back to Chicopee shortly after leaving North Quincy High, which he attended from 1997 to 1998.
At 19, he lived briefly with his sister in Las Vegas.
He later moved to Maine to enter the Job Corps, a federal program that helps people between the ages of 16 and 24 get vocational training and high school diplomas. Wilson attended the program from January through October 2002, completing its culinary arts program and getting his high school equivalency diploma.
He had last been home in Chicopee in November on a two-week leave.
“He was his usual upbeat self,” LaRiviere said, “(but) he did seem more mature and much more experienced, like he’d seen some things.”
Ken Golash, Chicopee’s veterans agent, said he visited Wilson’s mother and stepfather, Ilka and Scott Halliday, on Monday.
“They had just been notified, so they were pretty distraught,” Golash said.
The Hallidays could not be reached for comment.
In late February, Ilka Halliday posted photos of infantrymen from the 32nd on a Web site, saying, “Hoping they all come home safe and soon.”
On his MySpace page, Wilson posted photos of himself, his friends and his daughter.
In his favorite photo (according to his caption), posted in 2005, his daughter is sitting in a stroller and staring at the camera with big hazel eyes.
In another picture posted in 2005, Jayden, smiling and sunburned and wearing a stars-and-stripes tank top, is looking to the left of the camera and smiling mischievously. The caption says, “She just puts so much joy in my heart.”
The fiancée of one of the men in Wilson’s unit commented on the picture, saying, “Your (sic) a good daddy and I bet she’s proud of you!”
The rest of the pictures are either self portraits or photos of him with his army buddies. The self portraits are all marked with teasing captions like “kiss me i’m beautiful, laugh out loud, just kidding” and “this is just little old me….. what do you think?”
The rest, with men from his unit, all have stern, stoic faces, but comments posted by his friends are playful.
Wilson’s family had not yet made funeral arrangements, Golash said.
Army Specialist Christopher M. Wilson, a Maine resident with Massachusetts ties, wrote in a Web profile that his worst fear was not returning from Afghanistan to see his 4-year-old daughter.
That fear became a grim reality Thursday when Wilson, 24, died after a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near his position during a firefight in Korengal. Three other US soldiers were wounded in the attack, according to an Army spokesman.
Wilson, who enlisted in the Army in September 2002 and trained as a rifleman, was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2006 with the First Battalion, 32d Infantry Regiment, Third Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. The unit had been scheduled to return in February, but its tour was extended until June, said Benjamin Abel, a spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division, which is based at Fort Drum, New York.
Wilson was born in North Dakota, spent the 1997-98 academic year at North Quincy High School, and lived in South Hadley, Chicopee, and Bangor, according to family friends and the Defense Department.
Before enlisting, Wilson studied culinary arts in Bangor with the Penobscot Job Corps, said Monique LaRiviere, a family friend from South Hadley. Wilson's daughter, Jayden, lives in Maine, and his mother and stepfather live in Chicopee, LaRiviere said. A sister lives in Texas.
“He was a very good friend of my son, pretty much his best friend,” LaRiviere said. “He was a really great kid, very upbeat and outgoing and friendly.”
Wilson's enthusiasm for the Job Corps, LaRiviere said, encouraged her son, Tom Burke, to follow him into the program.
“He was always trying to push my son into something better,” LaRiviere said of Wilson's encouragement for her child, who was three years younger than his friend. “He would say, ‘You should do what I did, because I'm really happy this way.' He really did a lot for my son. We're truly sorry to see him gone.”
LaRiviere said that she saw Wilson in November, when he visited Massachusetts on leave, and that the soldier's loyalty to his comrades was impressive.
“He was happy to be home, but he was also feeling edgy to get back there, because he knew they were in a bad place,” LaRiviere said. “He felt like he was leaving them in the lurch.”
Wilson had been stationed in a remote, dangerous outpost near the Pakistan border, where his unit is trying to curb the cross-border movement of Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents, said Abel, the division spokesman.
In Maine, Governor John E. Baldacci has ordered flags flown at half-staff at Wilson's funeral, said spokesman David Farmer . “We will offer every support possible to Specialist Wilson's family,” Baldacci said in a statement. “There is a young girl who has lost a father, and it's heartbreaking.”
SOUTH HADLEY, Massachusetts – A memorial service this morning for Army Specialist Christopher Wilson.
Wilson died of injuries sustained in rocket-propelled grenade attack at the Korengal Outpost in Afghanistan late last month. He was 24 years old.
Wilson lived in Chicopee and went to high school in Quincy. He left behind a four-year-old daughter. His mother and stepfather still live in western Massachusetts.
Today's memorial service is scheduled to take place at the Second Baptist Church in South Hadley. Governor Patrick is expected to attend.
Burial with military honors will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007:
All eyes were on the flag-draped coffin of Army Sergeant Christopher M. Wilson as it was wheeled out of Second Baptist Church and into the noon sunshine yesterday.
Outside, the 24-year-old soldier's family stood to accept condolences from Govenor Deval L. Patrick, U.S. Representative Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, other elected and government officials and friends and family. The former Chicopee resident's funeral came 11 days after he and three other soldiers were killed by a rocket-propelled grenade while on patrol in Afghanistan.
“Chris had a lot of love for people, especially family and friends, and cared a lot about his country,” said Stephanie L. Audette, a friend of Wilson's from Ludlow who spoke during the hour-long church service. “Chris was indeed a true hero. He was my hero.”
Wilson was a member of the 10th Mountain Division, Company A, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment and was deployed to the Korengal Outpost along the Pakistani border. The outpost was established last year to help bring stability to a region that has been called “particularly dangerous” by Army officials.
Wilson was deployed in March 2006 and was originally scheduled to return home last month, but his tour was extended another four months. He was stationed at Fort Drum, New York.
The church service was attended by about 250 people, many of whom cried during the personal remembrances of Wilson.
The Rev. Donald H. Bradley said he met Wilson in the church sanctuary while Wilson was on leave. He said it was an honor and a privilege to conduct Wilson's service.
“We all gave all these wonderful military veterans and Christopher a round of applause for what they had done and what they were doing,” said Bradley, remembering that day he first saw Wilson. “You could tell he was proud to be serving his country.”
Wilson's mother and stepfather, Ilka and Scott Halliday, still live in Chicopee, where Wilson moved in the late '90s. He leaves a daughter, Jayden D. Wilson; a sister, Katrina Evens; a brother, Breckon J. Wilson; and grandparents, Harry and Marilyn Halliday.
Bradley said Wilson joined the Army because of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“To understand Christopher, we need to examine his love for this country,” Bradley said. “He always knew he was going to be a soldier someday. He lived his dream.”
A recording of “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood was played, and “Amazing Grace” was sung during the service. Local veterans held flags outside the church as funeral-goers filed out of the solemn ceremony.
Chicopee Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette and Chicopee Veterans Service Officer Kenneth E. Golash attended, as did state Secretary of Veterans Services Thomas G. Kelley. It was Neal's 10th funeral service for a military casualty of Iraq or Afghanistan. The governor and other elected officials did not speak during the ceremony.
“I think these young men and women have honored America by their service,” Neal said after the church ceremony. “These are the finest of the families you'll ever want to meet.”
Wilson was made a sergeant posthumously. He received several medals for his service, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, tomorrow at 3 p.m.
12 April 2007:
On a sunless, damp afternoon yesterday, Army Specialist Christopher M. Wilson, who grew up in Chicopee and was killed in combat in Afghanistan last month, was buried in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the nation's most hallowed ground.
Since his death on March 29, 2007, Wilson has been described by family and friends as a young man with a lifelong interest in the military who cared strongly about the United States, but also learned to care about the country where he was serving.
“He made it clear that one of the things that (kept) him going while in Afghanistan was the fact that he was helping the children and other innocent people of Afghanistan,” his mother, Ilka Halliday, said in a statement released last week.
Yesterday's service was attended by U.S. Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry. The Massachusetts Democrats have attended many of the ceremonies for the state's 63 casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wilson, 24, of Bangor, Maine, died in Korengal Outpost, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from a rocket propelled grenade explosion, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Wilson was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment nicknamed Task Force Spartan of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York. About 3,500 soldiers from Task Force Spartan are serving in Afghanistan.
Wilson and three other U.S. soldiers were killed in the attack, according to an Army spokesman.
Wilson enlisted in the Army in September 2002 and trained as a rifleman.
Wilson was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2006 in an area described as the middle of nowhere. The outpost was established last year to bring stability to the area near the Pakistan border that was the target of attacks by the Taliban, according to the Arlington National Cemetery Web site page that honors Wilson.
The outpost in Kunar province where Wilson was stationed had been under substantial fire for one or two days.
Wilson was scheduled to return home last month but his tour was extended another four months.
The Pentagon announced yesterday that it will lengthen tours of duty for all active-duty Army units in Iraq from 12 to 15 months.
The Army specialist was honored on Monday in South Hadley at the Second Baptist Church. Governor Deval L. Patrick and U.S. Representative Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield attended the service.
Wilson's mother and stepfather, Scott Halliday live in Chicopee. The soldier leaves a 4-year-old daughter, Jayden D. Wilson; a sister, Katrina Evens; a brother, Beckon J. Wilson; and grandparents Harry and Marilyn Halliday.
Wilson, who decided to join the armed forces after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, was promoted to the rank of sergeant posthumously. He received several medals for his service, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Many Western Massachusetts residents have signed the guest book for Wilson on www.MassLive.com.
One entry was submitted by Lori Bowe of Coraopolis, Pennsylvnaia, who wrote “to the family of Specialist Wilson” about her son, Army Specialist Matthew C. Bowe killed in action on January 19, 2007.
“My son was stationed at Fort Drum as well. Our soldiers are hero's that still had so much to offer this world,” she wrote.
Pam and Bill Adams of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, whose son, Sergeant First Class Brent A. Adams, was killed in action on December 1, 2005, in Ramadi, Iraq, wrote as well as many residents from around the Pioneer Valley.
The ground of Arlington National Cemetery holds the remains of other native sons killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Marine Captain John W. Maloney, 36, married and the father of two young children, who grew up in Chicopee where his mother and stepfather live, is buried at Arlington. He was leading a unit on patrol outside of Ar Ramadi when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device on June 16, 2005.
A year later, on June 16, Army Specialist David J. Babineau, 25, a Springfield native whose parents still live in the city, was killed while manning a checkpoint outside of Baghdad. He is buried at Arlington.
Marine Corporal Stephen R. Bixler, 20, of Suffield, Connecticut, is buried at Arlington. He was killed in Iraq during combat on May 4, 2006.
WILSON, CHRISTOPHER M
SGT US ARMY
DATE OF BIRTH: 04/20/1982
DATE OF DEATH: 03/29/2007
BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 8615
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