Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Army Pfc. Christopher I. Walz

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Christopher I. Walz, 25, of Vancouver, Wash.

Pfc. Walz was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.; died Oct. 27, 2009 in Arghandab Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an IED. Also killed were Sgt. Fernando Delarosa, Staff Sgt. Luis M. Gonzalez, Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, Sgt. Issac B. Jackson, Spc. Jared D. Stanker and Sgt. Patrick O. Williamson.

The Oregonian -- The Vancouver family of a U.S. Army soldier killed in Afghanistan was among those gathered to greet 18 returning American bodies and meet with President Barack Obama at Dover Air Force Base, Del. early Thursday.

Pfc. Christopher "Ian" Walz was one of a record number of Americans killed in action in Afghanistan this month. His family, including mother Victoria Walz, aunt Donna Walz and ex-wife, Katrina Walz, traveled to the East Coast Wednesday for the ceremonial transfer of the body.

President Barack Obama flew by military helicopter to Dover unexpectedly Wednesday night to witness the return of the fallen soldiers. Obama then met with relatives, including Walz's family, at a nearby chapel.

Donna Walz said the President "was genuine, very genuine." Exhausted after two sleepless nights in a row, she described the ceremony and meeting as "a blur."

"It was surreal," said Katrina Walz, who divorced from Walz in June of this year. She was listed among his next of kin and said she remained close.

"He would have been really proud," Katrina Walz said. "He really liked Obama."

Walz graduated from Hudson's Bay High School in 2002 and earned an associate degree from Clark College. He wanted to become a history teacher or police officer after leaving the army, his family said.

In Vancouver, Walz's fiancee Madeline Damore fought back tears as family and friends passed around photos and talked about Walz's kind way with children, his support of Obama and his contagious sense of humor.

"His laugh was classic -- loud, obnoxious," said cousin, Kim Goldfinch. "He made everyone else laugh in the room."

Damore said she and Walz met while working at a WinCo grocery store in Hazel Dell. He proposed to her on New Year's Eve, after a lover's spat, she said.

Goldfinch shared a printout of an "about me" note that Walz had posted to his MySpace page, detailing why he decided to enlist.

"A lot of people ask why I joined the ARMY. I tell them that I feel it's important to serve my country, plus my 21,000 bonus and 40,000 for school doesn't hurt either, lol" Walz wrote.

He said he hoped to finish a degree in political science, travel the world, then start a career in teaching.

Last Wednesday, Walz told friends and family that he was going on a six-day mission, and that he would call when he returned to base.

According to the Department of Defense, Walz was one of seven U.S. soldiers who died after their armored vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan's Arghandab Valley near Kandahar province.

The soldiers were part of the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, based in Fort Lewis, a fort spokesman confirmed.

Army Pfc. Christopher I. Walz was killed in action on 10/27/09.

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