Thursday, January 28, 2010

Army Staff Sgt. Rusty H. Christian

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Rusty H. Christian, 24, of Greeneville, Tenn.

SSgt Christian was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; died Jan. 28, 2010 in Oruzgan province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Friends of a U.S. Army Special Forces soldier with Greeneville roots who was killed in Afghanistan earlier this week recalled him Friday as "a little brother" who grew up to love service in the Army.

Staff Sgt. Rusty Christian, 24, a graduate of Greeneville High School, was killed near a military outpost called Camp Cobra in Afghanistan in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion earlier this week, according to his mother, Donna Ball, of Kingsport, a former Greeneville resident.

"He was like an extra little brother to me," said Derrick Shannon, who described himself as a "best friend" of Rusty's brother, Aaron Christian. "I watched him (Rusty Christian) grow up."

Aaron Christian is now a mathematics teacher and assistant football coach at Chuckey-Doak High School.


Shannon, who served in Iraq in 2004 with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's Gray-based Lima Company, 24th Marine Regiment, said Friday in a telephone interview with The Greeneville Sun that he and Rusty Christian had maintained a friendly rivalry because he served in the Marines, while Christian had joined the Army.

When Rusty, who was already a veteran of service in Iraq, was accepted for training as a Green Beret (Special Forces soldier) last year, he was "very excited," according to Shannon.

Shannon noted that he first met Rusty Christian when he himself and Rusty's older brother, Aaron, were attending Doak Elementary School in Tusculum.

Shannon said that, although he was several years older than Rusty, the two remained friends.

"I was in his wedding out in Seattle," Shannon said Friday.

He recalled that he had "chatted" with Rusty only about two weeks ago via the Internet while Rusty was serving in Afghanistan.

"He was very proud of what they (his Special Forces unit) were doing over there," Shannon said.


Shannon said in the interview Friday that he was en route to Tri-Cities Regional Airport to see Rusty's mother, stepfather, and brother off on a flight to Dover, Del., where they were to meet Rusty's body when it was flown back to the U.S.

Shannon noted that Sgt. Christian's wife, Amber Christian, of Fort Lewis, Wash., was to meet the other family members at Dover Air Force Base. "She's flying in from Seattle," Shannon said.

Christian will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C., his mother, Donna Ball, said by telephone from her Kingsport home on Thursday night.


Staff Sgt. Christian died along with three Afghan soldiers when an IED exploded near a military truck they were walking beside, his mother said Thursday evening.

Another U.S. soldier was wounded.

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

Sgt. 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 GHS.

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


Mrs. Ball, who 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, Wash., where Rusty Christian was based before he deployed to Afghanistan.

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

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

"You never think this day will come," Mrs. Ball said Thursday evening.

SSgt. Christian is survived by his wife, Amber; their two children, daughter Taylor, age 3, and son Gavin, almost 1; his mother and stepfather, Donna and Jim Ball; his father and stepmother, Mike and Nancy Christian; and a brother, Aaron.

Army Staff Sgt. Rusty H. Christian was killed in action on 1/28/10.

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