Archive for Monday, September 22, 2008

Gone but not forgotten

Family grieves over slain Marine, acknowledges the virtue of following dreams

Candy Wasser, Ottawa, holds a key ring with a photo of her son Chris, who was killed in Iraq. Recently she had a tattoo put on her wrist with her son's name along with the U.S Marine symbol.

Candy Wasser, Ottawa, holds a key ring with a photo of her son Chris, who was killed in Iraq. Recently she had a tattoo put on her wrist with her son's name along with the U.S Marine symbol.

September 22, 2008

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Candy Wasser, Ottawa, holds a key ring with a photo of her son Chris, who was killed in Iraq. Recently she had a tattoo put on her wrist with her son's name along with the U.S Marine symbol.

Candy Wasser, Ottawa, holds a key ring with a photo of her son Chris, who was killed in Iraq. Recently she had a tattoo put on her wrist with her son's name along with the U.S Marine symbol.

Candy Wasser, Ottawa, holds a picture of her oldest son, Chris, shown from his senior year in high school. Chris wanted to be a Marine, and when he turned 18, he enlisted. Three Marines and a chaplain informed the Wassers of their son's death at 11:30 p.m. April 8, 2004. Two flags hang on the front door - one signifies a son in service; the other signifies a soldier killed in action.

Candy Wasser, Ottawa, holds a picture of her oldest son, Chris, shown from his senior year in high school. Chris wanted to be a Marine, and when he turned 18, he enlisted. Three Marines and a chaplain informed the Wassers of their son's death at 11:30 p.m. April 8, 2004. Two flags hang on the front door - one signifies a son in service; the other signifies a soldier killed in action.

Arguments between parents and teenagers are nothing new.

One Candy Wasser lost with her oldest son, Chris, during his senior year at Ottawa High School, changed their lives forever.

"He wanted to be a Marine," Wasser says. "We did our best to dissuade him. We were blunt with recruiters and insisted they avoid painting rosy pictures of war. I knew Chris was patiently and wisely tolerating us at the recruiter's office."

In spite of Chris' regular pleadings for them to sign his enlistment papers, she and her husband, Scott, refused.

"He couldn't understand our worries and insisted America would never go to war," she says. "I remained adamant; he'd have to sign his own papers for such a commitment."

Shortly after his 18th birthday he did. He left for San Diego on Sept. 7, 2001, with their blessings, never dreaming his first full day of Boot Camp would include the tragic events of 9/11.

"Tears rolled down my face as I watched television that morning," Wasser recalls. "I acknowledged my son was where God wanted him to be. My prayer was simple: God, make us good vessels for whatever's to come."

Wasser, 52, promised herself she'd find a way for the family - including twins Katie and Nick, and Emily - to attend Chris' graduation into the Marine Corps.

"We did. It was Dec. 7, 2001, the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor," she says with a sigh.

During Christmas 2002 celebrations, the family received news of Chris' deployment to Iraq.

"When I tried to discuss the wisdom of this action, Chris silenced me with his terse response. 'You don't understand, mom. He (President Bush) is my commander-in-chief; I'll go where I'm sent,'" Wasser recalls. "I didn't understand and dedicated myself to quiet, careful observation."

Chris returned safely, and his high school honored him at a homecoming football game.

"It was the first time Chris wore his Dress Blue uniform in Ottawa," Wasser recalls. "He looked so dignified - you know: 'The few, the proud, the Marines.'"

When news of his second deployment to Iraq arrived, she and Scott met him in Las Vegas.

"I'm delighted one of his last memories was of his parents singing 'White Rabbit' at a Blue Man Group show," she says. "We shared our last hug in a parking lot about 9 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004."

Two months later Lance Cpl. Christopher Wasser, 21, was dead - killed by a roadside bomb.

"When the three Marines and Navy chaplain arrived on our porch at 11.30 p.m. on Thursday, April 8, we looked at each other and breathed deeply," Wasser remembers. "Scott told them we knew why they'd come."

They couldn't read the official notice until Scott explained he was a hospice nurse and often delivered similar news.

"My heart bled for them," Wasser says. "I knew these Marines needed my support. We'd have a lifetime to deal with Chris' death but these guys had immediate needs. I gave them a mom hug before they left and determined to support them through this ordeal."

Three days later, on Easter Sunday, Wasser sang in her church choir.

"I felt God's overwhelming, powerful presence when we sang the Hallelujah chorus," she says.

Ottawa came to a standstill during the funeral procession. Wasser's grief was compounded by news that Chris' captain and four colleagues were killed that day.

"They'd lived in San Diego married quarters," she says. "I wanted to support their grieving families so I went to accompany them to memorial and commendation services," Wasser says. "I deeply appreciated seeing the place Chris called home."

The Wassers returned for the unit's September homecoming.

"I wept openly watching those young Marines huddle together to support and comfort each other," she says.

She met Kevin Rumley, who was near Chris when he died and sustained horrific injuries. They're still in touch and encourage each other.

Wasser is comforted by the knowledge Chris followed his dream. A plaque presented by Ottawa High School displays his words: "Strength beyond description takes courage, of course, but it also takes hope. Never settle for anything less than what you shoot for."

She clasps the plaque to her heart and says, "It's incredible to learn things about Chris that I didn't get time to ..."

The sentence remains unfinished. Wasser remembers her son and weeps.

Comments

bearded_gnome 6 years, 6 months ago

the article is poorly written:the main events of this story of courage and loss took place four years ago. AR needs to have written this better, tell us why this is in the paper today? soldiers are not fools. if you believe that, you are not worthy of the rights and priviledges of being an American.
Thank you everyone who puts on the uniform. thanks to spouses and parents. Thank God we've turned the corner in iraq, because of the hard work and hard sacrifice of our brave servicemen and women. God bless them every one.

Melanie Birge 6 years, 6 months ago

So do we vote for Mcaine or Obama to bring these young men and women home from war?

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years, 6 months ago

"My prayer was simple:God, make us good vessels for whatever's to come." Amen.

Kontum1972 6 years, 7 months ago

remember Chris...along with the 78,000 on the Wall in DC.,War... too Late the Hero....its a dying business..my sympathies in your great loss .....

oldvet 6 years, 7 months ago

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them. We will never forget out brother Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedomsSemper Fi!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qal8l...

notajayhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

soldiers_are_fools (Anonymous) says: "ignorance is truly KING:::::."When were you crowned? And does that mean your royal parents were equally ignorant?

jaywalker 6 years, 6 months ago

Go away s_a_f, before your father finds you've been using his adult toys again. Well, said, danimal, and thank you for your service. God bless you.God bless the Wassers. God bless America.

Danimal 6 years, 6 months ago

Wow, fools, how wildly inappropriate and mean-spirited can you be? I'll never understand how people can sit back and give the middle finger to those who protect them from the evils of this world. My condolences go out to the Wasser's, I served my second tour in Iraq at the same time as their son did his (but not in the same unit, and I didn't know him of course). The families back home always bear huge burdens while we're gone, that largely we never know about. But especially the families of those who never return, either mentally or physically. It's a very sad tale, but war is hell and hopefully the world will be a little safer and we will have learned a few things as a nation when this is all over.I'm so sorry that their Marine didn't make it home.Semper Fidelis

bad_dog 6 years, 6 months ago

My thanks to all the men and women in uniform (past and present) that perform their duty and protect us. They choose to undergo extreme hardship and lay it all on the line to preserve our collective rights-even the rights of those who choose to denigrate them. Members of the armed forces I salute you!My sympathies to the Wassers. Your son apparently was an exceptional man.

DGL 6 years, 7 months ago

All gave some, some gave all. Semper Fi LCpl Wasser.

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