Rusty Hunter Christian – Staff Sergeant, United States Army

U.S. Department of Defense

Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

February 03, 2010

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Staff Sergeant Rusty H. Christian, 24, of Greenville, Tennessee, died January 28, 2010, in Oruzgan province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.


Staff Sergeant Rusty Hunter Christian, 24, of Greenville, Tennessee, died when an improvised explosive device exploded during a patrol Jan. 28, 2010 in Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan.


He was assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Lewis, Washington, and was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. This was Christian's second deployment in support of Overseas Contingency Operations.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army February 4, 2004. Upon completion of basic training and advanced individual training, he was assigned to 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis as an infantryman.

In 2008, Christian volunteered for the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course and completed the Special Forces Qualification Course in August 2009. He was then assigned to 2nd Bn., 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis as a SF Engineer Sergeant.

His military education also includes the U.S. Army Airborne School, Advanced Leaders Course, Warrior Leaders Course, Combat Life Savers Course, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course, Defense Language Institute Indonesian Course and the Special Forces Qualification Course.

Christian’s awards and decorations include two Army Commendation Medals, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with one campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with numeral 2 device, Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, Army Valorous Unit Award and the Meritorious Unit Citation, Parachutist Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge and the Special Forces tab.

He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one campaign star and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Christian is survived by his wife, Amber Christian and their children, Taylor and Gavin Christian of Orting, Wash. He is also survived by his mother Donna Ball and stepfather Jim Ball of Kingsport, Tenn; his father Michael Christian of Laurel Bloomery, Tenn.; and his brother Aaron Christian of Kingsport, Tennessee.


A U.S. Special Forces soldier who formerly lived in Greeneville, Tennessee, died earlier this week in Afghanistan from wounds suffered in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast, his mother confirmed on Thursday night.

Staff Sergeant Rusty Christian, 24, a Green Beret who was stationed at Camp Cobra in Afghanistan, died along with three Afghan soldiers when an IED exploded near a military truck they were walking beside, his mother, Donna Ball, of Kingsport, said during a Thursday evening telephone interview.


Another U.S. soldier was wounded.

She said she had received no other details of how her son's death occurred.

Mrs. Ball also said she wanted his many friends in Greeneville to know about her son's death.

Sergeant Christian had only been in Afghanistan since the first week of January, Mrs. Ball said.

He was a 2004 graduate of Greeneville High School who had enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after graduation from high school.

His mother noted that Christian, who was a veteran of service in Iraq, would have been in the Army six years this summer.

Mrs. Ball said she learned of her son's death about 2:30 p.m. Thursday in a telephone call from his wife, Amber Christian, who was residing with the couple's two young children at Fort Lewis, Washington, where Rusty Christian was based before he deployed to Afghanistan.

The Christians' children are a daughter, Taylor, who turned three on January 26, and a son, Gavin, who will be one-year-old on February 26.

“You never think this day will come,” Mrs. Ball said.

In Greeneville, Mrs. Ball said, Rusty Christian is survived by his brother, Aaron Christian, a mathematics teacher and assistant football coach at Chuckey-Doak High School.

In Kingsport, Mrs. Ball, who formerly lived in Greeneville, said, her son is survived by his stepfather, Jim Ball, and herself.

She said that she, her daughter-in-law and Rusty's brother, Aaron, plan to travel to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, to be present when Rusty's body arrives there from Afghanistan.

It was Christian's wish to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C., his mother said.

“But he wanted to come back to Tennessee one more time,” she said, noting that the family will receive friends at Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Home in Kingsport next week.

His body will then be taken to Arlington National Cemetery for burial with full military honors.


Greeneville Sun General Manager Steve Harbison, whose daughter, Annie, was a classmate and close friend of Christian during middle school and high school years, recalled Christian as “charismatic” and noted that he played football at GHS until knee injuries cut short his football career.

In addition, he excelled in baseball and was a member of the varsity GHS team.

Christian had also been a drummer for a local rock band called the Bell Tower Band while at GHS.

He had been featured in a 2007 article in the military newspaper “Stars and Stripes” while he was serving in Iraq.

Sergeant Christian, according to the article, was serving in Iraq with Company C, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

The June 20, 2007, article described some of the events of the first day of Operation Arrowhead Ripper as experienced by Sergeant Christian's unit.

Sergeant Christian, then 21, was shown in silhouette in a photo that accompanied the June 20 article by Stars and Stripes writer Drew Brown.

The article, which was datelined Baqouba, Iraq, focused on “Operation Arrowhead Ripper,” a U.S. Army offensive “meant to kill and capture as many insurgents as possible, secure the population, and set the conditions for the eventual turnover” of the city to the Iraqi Army and police, according to the article.

The article also noted that soldiers in Sergeant Christian's squad were taking a break when an insurgent sniper began firing at the soldiers of another squad.

“The rest was shattered about two hours later when a series of single rifle shots rang out,” Drew Brown wrote.

“A pair of M-240 machine guns hammered away in response. Soldiers reported that another squad, about 200 meters away, had come under fire from a sniper in a house about 600 meters away.”

In response, according to the article, the soldiers called for artillery support.

“After a long while, 120-mm mortar rounds began to land around a house down the street … ,” the article continued.

“As the mortars began to land, a man came into the street about 400 yards away. Sergeant Rusty Christian, 21, of Greeneville, Tennessee, opened fire on him, reasoning that only an insurgent would walk out into the street as mortars were falling.”

Sergeant Christian also was mentioned in a caption of a photo that accompanied the Stars and Stripes article.

That photo shows Sergeant Christian's silhouette as he enters a darkened stairwell from the roof of a building after “clearing” the roof to ensure that no insurgents were hiding there.

His mother wrote to The Greeneville Sun in September 2007 that her son had returned to his unit's base at Fort Lewis, Wash., in early September that year from Iraq.

“Rusty made it home on Monday, September 10, to Fort Lewis, Washington,” Mrs. Ball wrote.

She had described it as a “very emotional day.”

She noted that on the day of his return, Sergeant Christian got to hold his then seven-month-old daughter, Taylor, for the first time since he was allowed to come home for her birth.

Arlington Burial Afghanistan

A caisson carries the remains of Army Staff Sergeant Rusty H. Christian during burial
services at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Arlington Burial Afghanistan

Honor guard members carry the remains of Army Staff Sergeant Rusty H. Christian during
burial services at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, February 24, 2010.

Arlington Burial Afghanistan

Honor guard members hold flags to be presented to the family of Army Staff Sergeant Rusty H. Christian
during burial services at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Arlington Burial Afganistan

Honor guard members pass the flag during burial services for Army Staff Sergeant Rusty H. Christian
at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rusty H. Christian, Amber Christian, Donna Ball, Michael Christian

Major General Michael Repass, presents a flag to Amber Christian, the widow of Army Staff Sergeant Rusty H. Christian
, during burial services at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, February 24, 2010. Seated next to Christian is
Rusty's mother, Donna Ball, and at right is Rusty's father Michael Christian

Rusty H. Christian, Amber Christian, Donna Ball, Michael Christian

The family of Army Staff Sergeant Rusty H. Christian, wife, Amber Christian, left, mother Donna Ball, and father
Michael Christian, second from right, grieve after receiving their flags during burial services at Arlington National Cemetery
Wednesday, February 24, 2010


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 11/15/1985
  • DATE OF DEATH: 01/28/2010

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