Rory Crissman – Technical Sergeant, United States Air Force

November 21, 2003

Wing loses airman to cancer

Technical Sergeant Rory Crissman, 39, died November 19, 2003, after a bout with cancer. Just prior to his death, he was a patient at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. December 8, 2003, at the Old Post Chapel, Fort Myer, Virginia. His remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia., immediately following the service.

“We've lost one of our very, very best,” said 11th Wing Commander Colonel William A. Chambers.

The former noncommissioned officer in charge of ceremonies and protocol, 11th Wing Protocol Office, on whom scores of families relied to ensure their departed service members were properly honored at Arlington National Cemetery, will now be the honoree. Crissman had been stationed at Bolling since April 1998, serving in the Honor Guard his first two years.

Crissman was the recognized expert on many duties related to activities at ANC, said his superintendent, Master Sergeant Arthur Henderson. He said Crissman lived by a philosophy Chinese philosopher Confucius espoused: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Crissman was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal November 17, 2003. His other awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Air Force Overseas Ribbon (Long Tour), Air Force Longevity Service Award, NCO Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, and Air Force Training Ribbon.

Rory Crissman, far right, serving in an honor guard at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. e retired from the Air Force as a Technical Sergeant four days before his death. (Family Photo)

Sergeant Rory Crissman Dies; Protocol Authority

Monday, December 1, 2003

Rory Crissman, 39, an Air Force Technical Sergeant who retired several weeks ago as a leading authority on military ceremonies, flags and funerals, died of colon cancer November 19, 2003, at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. He lived in Waldorf.

Sergeant Crissman had been the senior noncommissioned officer in charge of ceremonies and protocol at the 11th Wing Ceremonies Protocol Office on Bolling Air Force Base for the past three years.

His duties included oversight of ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns and funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery.

The former equipment technician was selected for the Air Force Honor Guard based at Bolling in 1998. He served in the honor guard for two years before his promotion to the protocol office.

Sergeant Crissman, a native of Dayton, Pennsylvania, served 18 years in the Air Force with postings in Spain, Italy and Turkey. He received an associate's degree in electronics from the University of Maryland while in the Air Force and spent most of his career in the highly technical field of calibrating flight instrumentations.

His marriage to DeLores Lorenzana ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of seven years, Jennifer Crissman, and their two children, Chase and Aurora, all of Waldorf; a son from his first marriage, Rory Crissman of Albuquerque; and his parents, Edward Crissman and Barbara Crissman, both of Dayton.

Master of Air Force Ceremonies, Embodiment of Honor, Dignity

Sunday, December 7, 2003

With every step, in triumph or despair, Rory Crissman showed honor and patriotism.

With his clean-cut looks, well-pressed uniform, shiny boots and pristine white gloves, the 39-year-old Air Force technical sergeant projected an image of military strength and dignity as a ceremonial guardsman with the prestigious U.S. Air Force Honor Guard from 1998 to 2000.

Beneath his lowered service cap, his blue eyes looked out with steely concentration on all sorts of military ceremonies, whether marching in solemn pageantry at Arlington National Cemetery or joint service wreath-layings at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Crissman served at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington with the 250-member honor guard, training and executing the rigid, precision ceremonial movements that are the hallmark of the unit and its motto, “To honor with dignity.”

Few ceremonies capture the esprit de corps of the honor guard like burial services at Arlington National Cemetery — complete with immaculate dress uniforms, or ceremonials, the presentation of the American flag to the next of kin, the bugler playing taps and the 21-volley salute.

“He was really focused on helping families going through the grieving process,” Jennifer Crissman, his wife of seven years, said in an interview at their home in Waldorf. “It was always about giving back to the families by creating special memories at a difficult moment.”

After two years with the honor guard, which participates in ceremonies in the District and in 144 counties in four states, Crissman became the noncommissioned officer in charge of ceremonies and protocol with the 11th Wing Ceremonial Protocol Office on Bolling.

In effect, he was one of the Air Force's main coordinators of ceremonies and funerals. When there was a retirement or promotion ceremony for general officers, he made all the arrangements, making sure events flowed flawlessly.

In the case of funerals, he briefed families on protocol before quietly cuing the start of the ceremony.

It was a detail-oriented job in which Crissman seemed to thrive, said Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Michael Thomas Buckley, commander of the protocol office.

“He helped with two major events in September,” Buckley said. “You'd never know he was fighting for his life.”

In fact, he was battling colon cancer, which was diagnosed last year.

“He was the optimistic one, saying he would beat the cancer,” his wife said as their 5-year-old son, Chase, fiddled with decorations on a lighted Christmas tree in the living room. Their other child, Aurora, 2 1/2, slept in another room. “He fought to the very end.”

Crissman also had a son, Rory, from a previous marriage.

Crissman retired from the Air Force four days before his death November 19, 2003. The Pennsylvania native who grew up in Dayton, a rural community northeast of Pittsburgh, was eight months short of reaching his 20-year career mark, a milestone signifying the fulfillment of his contract.

For a good part of that time, he was an aeronautics technician. He served in Spain calibrating flight equipment on planes flying in Operation Desert Storm. Later, he was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, where he volunteered as an honor guard member.

In 1997, he applied for the Air Force Honor Guard at Bolling when a spot opened up. He and his wife spent their honeymoon in Washington so he could interview for the job.

At 34, he was older than most of the other honor guard members, a majority of whom are selected from basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He kept in fit physical condition with a daily regimen of five-mile runs and dozens of push-ups and sit-ups. He served as the base aerobics instructor and mentored recruits.

“He always tried to show the positive side of a military career,” Jennifer Crissman said. “Most of the kids do their four years and get out. He wanted to show them the alternative.”


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