Thursday, June 24, 2004

Army Capt. Christopher S. Cash

Remember Our Heroes

Army Capt. Christopher S. Cash, 36, of Winterville, N.C.

Capt. Cash was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry, Army National Guard, Jacksonville, N.C.; killed June 24 when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle came under attack by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in Baqubah, Iraq.

By SETH HARKNESS, Portland Press Herald Writer

CAPT. CHRISTOPHER S. CASH , 36, North Carolina, North Carolina Army National Guard's 30th Heavy Separate Brigade, grew up in Old Orchard Beach, where his mother now lives, died June 24 in a small-arms attack in Baquba.

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — A 1985 Old Orchard Beach High School graduate remembered for his athletic excellence and dedication to the military died of head wounds in Iraq Thursday after being shot in an ambush. U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Cash, 36, was on patrol in Baqubah, a town 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, with fellow members of the North Carolina National Guard when Iraqi insurgents fired at their armored vehicle in the early morning attack. Another American soldier was killed and seven others were wounded in the skirmish.

Cash's mother and stepfather, Nancy and Robert Kelley of Old Orchard Beach, learned of Cash's death from friends in North Carolina shortly before an Army chaplain and a notification officer arrived at their door Thursday afternoon.

Cash and his unit, North Carolina's Army National Guard 30th Heavy Separate Brigade, went to Iraq in March to help train local police. Cash lived outside Fort Bragg, N.C., with his wife, Dawn, and their two sons, Christopher, 13, and Matthew, 11.

Nancy Kelley, her eyes red with grief as friends and family members offered support Friday afternoon, said she was comforted by the thought that her son lived the life he had envisioned.

"The only consolation we have right now is, he died doing what he wanted to do," she told U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, one of several politicians who called to offer condolences.

Cash moved to Old Orchard Beach from Rhode Island when he was 8 years old and grew up in the two-story red house on Cascade Road where his mother and stepfather still live. On Friday, four American flags and a strip of red, white and blue bunting flapped in the breeze outside the home.

Cash excelled in track and field and cross-country at Old Orchard Beach High. He won several state titles in track events, and qualified for the Junior National Olympics in 1984.

A fellow runner from those days recalled his friend as a person with a powerful and contagious drive to excel.

"He was very competitive. He made us all better because we all tried to outdo one another," said Joe Kline, 37, a pharmaceuticals salesman and Army reservist from Old Orchard Beach.

Kline said he never pegged his high school buddy for a military career but, in retrospect, said Cash showed a talent for leadership among his high school peers that helped explain his rise from private to captain.

"He took charge of a situation and made it fun," Kline said. "He always came up with an idea."

Mark Snow, a former track coach, said Cash could have excelled at any sport.

"He was an outstanding student and he was an outstanding athlete," Snow said. "He excelled in whatever he did. He was nothing but a class act."

Just five days before Cash died, Snow got a letter from him describing how proud he was to be serving the country.

"He was one of the best of the best," said Snow. "He was a Ranger and he loved doing that."

Cash enlisted in the Army in 1987 while on vacation in Texas. If his entry into the military was somewhat impulsive, his commitment was not.

He completed four years in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg as an Army Ranger and continued his 17-year military career in the Army National Guard.

After leaving active duty, Cash earned a bachelor's degree in fitness education and a master's degree in exercise physiology. He ran a large fitness facility in Greenville, N.C., and recently took up a new hobby that seemed ideal for someone with his energy and determination - running marathons.

In many ways his career mirrored that of his stepfather, who served in the Army in the late 1960s and managed health spas in California before starting a career as a food broker in Maine.

Kelley said she supported her son's decision to live a military life. She said Cash fully believed in what he was doing in Iraq. Kelley, who recently knitted red, white and blue scarves for her son's wife and other women at Fort Bragg, said she and her husband feel the same, despite the death of her only son.

"I'm just sad for his kids and sad for the wonderful life he would have lived, because he was only 36," she said.

Army Capt. Christopher S. Cash was killed in action on 06/24/04.

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