Fallen sergeant's kin feel pain, pride - East Valley Tribune: News

Fallen sergeant's kin feel pain, pride

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Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2008 11:29 pm | Updated: 11:51 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Matching star tattoos remind one Chandler family of their brother and son who died in Iraq nearly 10 months ago.

Mom honors slain son with gifts to others

Iraq casualties from the East Valley

"We all got tattoos on our back - my dad, brother, sister and me," said E-Jay Christopher, one of the proud siblings of Sgt. Caleb Christopher. "I can say my brother has got my back now."

Caleb Christopher is one of 16 troops from the East Valley who has died in Iraq since the war started five years ago on March 19, 2003.

He died June 3, 2007, at age 25 when a makeshift bomb exploded near his vehicle in Iraq. He was planning on returning home to visit his fiancee later that week.

"We take our patriotism to heart," E-Jay said. "Freedom is not free."

In addition to the star tattoo, E-Jay said he also remembers his little brother whenever he plays video games. He said the character name he chooses is Belac - his brother's name spelled backward.

But the family has also memorialized their brother and son in more substantial ways. A memorial scholarship fund at Chandler's Hamilton High School, where Caleb Christopher was a graduate, will help low-income students attend college.

The family patriarch, Edward Christopher, said the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war definitely brings up painful memories. He fought back tears as he recalled his son.

"Our family is patriotic," he said. "Several people in our family have served in the armed forces."

Edward said his son decided to join the Army for many reasons, including the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Sarah Christopher said she will remember her brother as her protector.

"He was my protector," she said. "It is cool to think now that he is not only mine but also the protector of the whole country."

Sarah said it's important that on the fifth anniversary of the war that people remember all the soldiers.

"For me it is so important that he is not forgotten, and also all the soldiers in general," she said.

Caleb Christopher was deployed to the Middle East in 2002. He served in B Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division based in Fort Hood, Texas. He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Bronze Star and the Global War on Terrorism Service medal.

After a long pause, Edward said the death of his son has still not sunk in, but that he visits the grave on his son's birthday. The family is also planning on visiting the grave on the anniversary of Caleb's death.

"He told us that serving his country was something that he wanted to do for his nieces and nephews," Edward said. "He wanted to preserve the freedom he has for them."

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