Friday, November 13, 2009

Army Spc. Christopher J. Coffland

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Christopher J. Coffland, 43, of Baltimore

Spc. Coffland was assigned to the 323rd Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Meade, Md.; died Nov. 13, 2009 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

WBOC -- David and Toni Coffland never thought they would have to prepare for their son's funeral. Army intelligence specialist Christopher Coffland was killed last week in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb.

The 42-year-old soldier was just about two weeks into his deployment. His sister broke the news to their parents at their home in Worcester County.

"I'll never forget the look on my daughter's face," said Toni Coffland. "I have never seen a face with such horror and sadness."

The Cofflands went to Dover Air Force base the next day for Chris' dignified transfer. His father hopes no one has to go through the same ordeal.

"It tears you apart and you can't believe your boy's body's in there," said David Coffland.

The Cofflands, who have received dozens of condolences, are planning a funeral service for this weekend in Baltimore. They say they want his leadership, humor and selflessness to be remembered.

OCEAN PINES -- An Ocean Pines couple is mourning the loss of their son, a Baltimore man who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan two weeks into his deployment.

Spc. Christopher James Coffland joined the Army Reserve at age 42, one month shy of the cutoff age for enlistment. His family said he dreamed of moving up in the intelligence field, and hoped for a defense department or civilian contractor job when he came home.

Coffland died Nov. 13 of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Wardak province. Two Marines also died in the attack. The team was investigating a report of another vehicle bombing, family members said.

His remains arrived Saturday night at Dover Air Force Base, where family members and friends were waiting.

"I can't tell you how much respect and honor with which they do that in Dover," said his father, David Coffland, choking up. "I gotta tell you, it's the hardest thing in life, for any parent to see that casket with the flag lying on it. It tears you up."

Mr. Coffland said he and his wife Toni are touched by an outpouring of support from their Ocean Pines neighbors.

"It's a continuous parade of people, with food and comfort," he said. "It's one of the most caring communities and circle of friends that anyone could possibly have. It's amazing. They're just coming out of the woodwork."

Coffland's father remembered how, "even when he was a little guy in Little League," Coffland remained a loyal and staunch supporter of his friends.

"For his small size, when he was a kid, he was the bravest kid I ever knew -- tough, you know, being able to withstand or do anything. As he grew, his morals grew. If every man could have been like my son, there wouldn't have been any problems in this world," he said.

After a lifetime of worldwide travel, Coffland became interested in a career in intelligence, his father said. He sought work in the field of covert operations, and turned down several opportunities to join as an officer, choosing enlistment instead.

His interest in the military wasn't new. He had been accepted into Army and Navy service academies after graduating in 1984 from Baltimore's Gilman School -- but he turned them down, his father said.

"He decided at that time that six years was too much of a commitment. And of course, we were in peacetime. He thought, 'why would I go do that if there wasn't a war?' After 9/11, he changed his thinking about war. He was patriotic, and he wanted to do something," he said.

Coffland graduated in 1988 from Washington and Lee University. He would later travel the world -- playing professional football in Europe, coaching football in Australia, earning a graduate anthropology degree in Washington, living with native Pygmy tribesmen in Africa, tending bar in Baltimore.

"Never a thought in his mind of any kind of commercial venture where he could make money," his father said. "That was the furthest thing from his mind. His whole intention in life was for helping people, and doing for others."

Coffland's brother-in-law, Kevin Bresnahan, of Ocean City, agreed that he always sought meaningful pursuits in everything he did.

"His whole mantra was, 'unless there's passion, there is no life,' type of a thing," he said. "And it was kind of surprising he joined the Army, because he's the kind of guy that doesn't like the regiment or authority that much. He was just a free spirit, but for some reason he thought this was his calling."

Army spokeswoman Maj. Monica Womack said Coffland had been assigned to the 323rd Military Intelligence Battalion based in Fort Meade, Md. In February he was cross-leveled with the Austin, Texas-based 321st Military Intelligence Battalion, and trained for his mission to Afghanistan. His unit arrived at the end of October.

Coffland's sister Karen Bresnahan said her baby brother never wanted the fanfare or accolades that came from his very dangerous job.

"I'm very proud my brother died doing what he wanted to do," she said. "He lived his life doing what he wanted to -- whatever he wanted to do, he did. He was accomplished in every aspect of his life. He wanted to serve his country. He will be an inspiration to many other young men and women, trying to rid the world of these terrorists and rebels, so we can have a life of freedom and democracy."

Coffland most recently resided in Baltimore with his sister, Lynn. In a statement, Mayor Sheila Dixon praised his service and said city flags will be lowered in his honor.

Coffland is survived by his parents, three sisters and a brother. A viewing will be held Nov. 20 at Lemmon Funeral Home in Timonium, Md., followed by an 11:00 a.m funeral Nov. 21 at Baltimore's Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

Funeral set for fallen reservist
The Associated Press

BALTIMORE — A funeral Mass has been scheduled for an Army Reservist from Baltimore who was killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan.

The funeral for Spc. Christopher James Coffland will take place Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

The 43-year-old Coffland died Nov. 13 when the vehicle he was in exploded in the Sayed Abud region.

Coffland signed up with the Army Reserves in December 2007, a month before he turned 42. He was killed 2½ weeks after arriving in Afghanistan.

Army Spc. Christopher J. Coffland was killed in action on 11/13/09.

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