Honoring an American Hero – SSG Christopher Birdwell
“All gave some; some gave all.”
First of four children, Christopher James Birdwell was born June 2, 1987 in Englewood, Colorado. Chris loved the mountains, cold weather and the sports that come along with it. He started skiing early on but switched to snowboarding after breaking his leg skiing in 4th grade. Chris was always an adventurer and loved the adrenaline rush that came with his extreme passions.
After graduating high school in 2005 Chris decided to join the Marines. Recruiters encouraged him to take a few courses at the local community college so he could enter at a higher rank. After a semester Chris enlisted in January 2006 and attended basic and advanced training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri as a 12B, Combat Engineer. Chris graduated and was assigned to the 27th Engineer Battalion, (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Chris’ first deployment came on the heels of his basic training in August of 2006. He spent seven months in Afghanistan, returning in March 2007 to attend Airborne training in Fort Benning, Georgia.
In 2008 Chris turned 21 and was considering leaving the military. When it came time to make a decision Chris reenlisted and changed his duty station to Fort Carson, CO becoming a member of the 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. His family loved having him so much closer and he made it a point to head home on weekends to spend time with family and friends in Northern Colorado.
Chris was promoted to the rank of Sergeant (SGT) in January 2009 and was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company as a command group driver and deployed a second time in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) from June 2009 to April 2010 while serving as a member of the Command Sergeant Major’s Physical Security Detachment. Later in 2011 Chris completed sniper training. This was a school he had been waiting for quite some time to attend. Chris spent hours upon hours learning his trade and making his ghilley suit.
Following his second deployment, Chris was reassigned to Alpha Company, 4 Brigade Special Troops Battalion as a Combat Engineer Team Leader serving on his third deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom XIII. This deployment was different than the first two. The Afghans were leading this time. He left in March 2012 and within a few weeks attacks by insurgents began on Kabul and three Eastern provinces. While out on a mission Chris’ caravan encountered two IED explosions within a few hours of each other. The second explosion incapacitated the vehicle and caused injuries to the soldiers inside. They were evacuated by helicopter back to base only to find that it had burned to the ground by a suicide bomber. All they had shipped over was gone and only what was in their packs while on mission was what they were left with. Chris powered through and remained positive after this traumatic experience and even made time to study and take some online courses.
Chris made the ultimate sacrifice in service to his country August 27, 2012 in Kalagush, Afghanistan. He and his unit were returning to base when an IED explosion damaged one of the vehicles in their convoy. Chris and a few others dismounted to sweep and secure the area. While securing soldiers who were helping to tow the damaged vehicle, Chris and SPC Mabry Anders were gunned down by an Afghan Army soldier who turned on them. By the time anyone could get to them, they were gone.
“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.” The famous Lee Greenwood lyrics broke the silence as images of Chris were displayed on a giant screen at Resurrection Fellowship Church on September 7, 2012. On this day friends, family and the Northern Colorado community honored this American Hero. Chris was posthumously promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSG) August 28, 2012.
In honor of Chris’ service and sacrifice, he and his family will be recognized at the Denver Broncos Salute to Service Game against the San Diego Chargers. Images of Chris will be displayed on the Jumbotron and his family will be invited to the 50-yard-line for a special Mile High Salute.
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