Click on this – This blog was written to Remember Chris on Memorial Day.
On 17 May 2012, Drexel University held “Memorial Day Primer and Tribute to Drexel’s Fallen. In preparation for Memorial Day, the Drexel community filled boxes for our troops, wrote some letters to them also, and then had several people talk about remembering those who have given their all for our freedoms. President Fry paid a tribute to Chris with words about Chris and who he was while at Drexel. He then offered me an opportunity to remember Chris and I chose these words:
“Thank you all for coming today to dedicate some time to those who give and have given their lives to protecting the freedoms we enjoy here in America. This dedication to Chris honors him for his daily desire to doing the right thing. It is easy as a parent to believe your child is extraordinary. Maybe it is grades, maybe it is sports. But rarely do we see gentle leadership.
In so many ways, Chris was ordinary, that is until he saw a wrong to be righted or a team that needed to be led. But he led by doing. He led by coaching. He worked hard to earn trust and respect and he knew that without integrity, he could easily lose all he had gained.
Chris’ times at Drexel and in the NROTC joint unit over at Penn were times of vast growth for him. He learned how “to learn”, “to lead”, and “to love.”
To learn – Commerce and Engineering was the perfect fit and he found himself willing to be challenged to succeed. I only learned recently about him being the first Commerce and Engineering student to do a Senior Design Project.
To Lead – NROTC was a key factor. Being in charge of discipline one semester, he set up historic 5a.m. runs through Philly. Each person disciplined was given a subject to talk on for 5 minutes about how this site was important to American Freedom.
To Love – he met Amanda here. As a father, you know your son and you know when your son changes. Amanda completed him and made him a better man.
As you sit here today, remember that there are still many men and women out there protecting our freedoms and working to provide the potential for freedom for oppressed people. As you walk by a monument, a graveyard, a flag, or someone in uniform, stop and be thankful, silently to yourself or outlound to them. Without them protecting our freedom to pursue happiness we would not be the America we are. Thank you for honoring Chris here today.
Custodite et protegite nos – Chris, watch over and protect us.”
As I sit thinking about my son, Chris, I realize all rhe important lessons I will carry away from this tragedy. Killed by an IED in a place mnay of us will ever really kmow about or understand, it is easy to question many things. However, I do not question that he was following what he loved to do. Over the past weeks as this has unfolded, friends, teammates, family, and Navy leadership have talked about him and I heard many things I knew, some I suspected, and some revelations.
So why was Chris the man he was today?
Pride – Chris had intense pride – in his team, in his fellow officers. Because of that, he would stand up for his team in the face of physical harm if it meant protecting them.
Integrity- Chris was blessed with this early in life. he realized this is one of those things that defines a person, and if harmed, it is almost impossible to retrieve.
Connectivity – I have learned that Chris was a catalyst for bringing people together in ways that drive long term friendships. He knew how to connect with people, make them feel wanted and then introduce them to others creating a community.
Love – Chris always had love in his life and he still did. He loved us as parents and his sister, Meredith. He loved his Grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins. And he was able to show and express that. He loved the men and women with whom he served.
But most of all, he loved his life with Amanda. The depth of that love and the love returned is evident in the depth of the pain faced today. Of all things on this list, this love defines the best part of who he was today.
So, for those of you who know him, lift a glass sometime in honor to a fallen war hero who understood how to best lead people. But when you do, remember his love, his bright eyes, his smile and hear his laugh. That was Chris.