Christopher C. Rafferty
First Sergeant, United States Army
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132 Public contact:
or +1 (703) 428-0711 +1
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 704-06
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
First Sergeant Christopher C. Rafferty, 37, of Brownsville, Pennsylvania, died in Sharana, Afghanistan, on July 21, 2006, as a result of shrapnel wounds suffered on July 20, 2006, while he was coordinating a response to a mortar and possible rocket-propelled grenade attack. Rafferty was assigned to 37th Engineer Battalion, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Media with questions about this soldier can contact the Fort Bragg Public Affairs Office at (910)-432-0661.
25 July 2006:
U.S. Army First Sergeant Class Chris Rafferty knew at age 16 he wanted to make the military a career, later maturing to become a troop leader with a generous heart.
Rafferty once raised $1,500 from his soldiers to help another who lost both his eyes and his arms above the elbows in an enemy attack. Late at night in the war zone, he also helped his soldiers with such simple tasks as balancing their checkbooks.
"He was very well-loved by his men," said Lee Hustava, the stepfather of Rafferty, 37, who died Friday in Sharana, Afghanistan, from injuries he suffered a day earlier. "He'd help anyone he could."
Rafferty, who grew up in Marianna and graduated in 1987 from Bethlehem-Center High School, received a fatal strike to the back of the neck, his stepfather said. Rafferty's unit, the 37th Engineer Battalion of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, had encountered small-arms fire during combat, according to a Monday news release from the Army.
"He was gathering up, rounding up his men," Hustava said. "We were all shocked. He was a good man. There he was, the only one hit."
Two military officers delivered the news to his mother, Sandra, at her Brownsville home at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
Rafferty is survived by his wife, Wendy, and two daughters, Samantha, 13, and Kayla, 11. He also had two sisters, Allyson Lee Rafferty of Erie and Deana Marie Anderson of Carmichaels.
Rafferty recently had purchased a home in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he planned to live upon retiring from the Army in 2 1/2 years, Hustava said.
He enlisted with his mother's permission in the U.S. Army Reserves while still in high school, his stepfather said.
Rafferty will be buried in Arlington National
Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
25 July 2006:
There will be two U.S. flags and two sets of medals presented to the family of First Sergeant Christopher C. Rafferty at the Brownsville soldier's funeral next week.
One flag and set of medals will be presented to his wife, the former Wendy Hyatt who grew up in Daisytown and now lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The second flag and set of medals will be presented to Rafferty's mother, Sandra Hustava of Brownsville.
"This really is very touching," Hustava said.
Hustava said the two flags and sets of medals eventually will go to her son's daughters, 13-year-old Samantha and 11-year-old Kayla.
"I really love my daughter-in-law and feel so bad that I can't do anything for her. I know what she's feeling. I buried a husband, too," Hustava said.
Hustava's first husband, A. Christopher Rafferty, a chemist for Campbell's Soup, died in 1979. She married Michael Hustava in 1980, with her son serving as the ring bearer. When the Hustavas renewed their vows for their 25th anniversary last year, her son served this time as the best man at his stepfather's request, Hustava said.
Hustava said her 37-year-old son's death has been particularly hard on her daughter-in-law and granddaughters. Hustava said there would not be services held in Pennsylvania so the funeral period is not prolonged.
Hustava said that while details are not yet complete, there are plans for a memorial ceremony on August 2,2006, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, then visitation at the Murphy Funeral Home in Arlington, Virginia. On Thursday, August 3, 2006, Hustava said there would be private visitation for the family members at the funeral home, as well as visitation for members of the military. According to the funeral home, there will be public visitation from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Aug. 3, with burial services at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, August 4, 2006.
"His wishes were that his casket not be open," Hustava said of her son.
Hustava said she was told her son was killed when he was struck in the back of the neck by shrapnel as he was checking to make sure all of his men were accounted for during a mortar attack in Sharana, Afghanistan.
"He was wearing full body armor. It was a freak thing. The shrapnel went between the body armor and his hat," Hustava said. "We will get through this with the help of God."
Hustava said she has received an outpouring of support from the members of her church, First Christian Church of Brownsville, the church's former pastor, the Rev. J.W. Hormell, and the current pastor, the Rev. Paul Sandusky.
"We're blessed with the friends that we have.
There has just been an outpouring of love from people we know and even
people we don't know," Hustava said.
The license plates at the Robert J. Murphy Funeral Home in Arlington, Virginia, gave a good indication of the impact First Sergeant Christopher Rafferty had on the lives of those around him.
At one point during the two-hour visitation, there were vehicles there from at least 10 states and the District of Columbia. They came from as far away as Texas, Florida and Missouri.
Rafferty, 37, who listed Brownsville as his hometown, was killed during a mortar attack late last month while serving in Afghanistan. He had been in the National Guard or Army since he was 16 years old and was the youngest top drill sergeant in the history of Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
"You can quote me. He was my hero," said Rafferty's first cousin, John R. Phillips II of Vestaburg. "He truly was."
Many of the soldiers who served with him over the past 20 years have expressed similar sentiments in person and in Internet postings.
Four soldiers drove in together from Fort Leonard Wood to pay their final respects to the man they had served with in so many other locations.
"I served with him in Iraq. We were platoon sergeants together, then he was my first sergeant," said Sergeant First Class Reginald Clayton, who is now stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood.
Clayton said he and Rafferty served together in Czechoslovakia and in France, where they attended school to learn to clear land mines.
"He was the one who honored me with his company when he left. He recommended me for his replacement. He was a great man," Clayton said.
Clayton also recalled happy times when they would go out together for karaoke nights and Rafferty's talents as a high school drummer came out. Clayton said Rafferty was like family to him.
"The brother from a different mother, we used to say," Clayton said.
Another traveler from Missouri was First Sergeant Robert Mawson.
"We were First Sergeants together in Germany, with the 82nd Engineers Battalion," Mawson said. "We deployed together. He was just a great guy."
More than 80 people filed through the funeral home Thursday evening.
A memorial service was also held Wednesday at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, which is Rafferty's most recent domestic assignment with the 37th Engineers Battalion.
Among Rafferty's friends who were unable to attend either of the memorial services were Eugene and Desa Duncan, who had grown up with Rafferty in Marianna and attended Bethlehem-Center High School with him.
"I wish I could make it, but I'm in Texas," Desa Duncan said. "We were in the band together. I played the trumpet. Chris made it more exciting to be in the band. He really got off on the drums."
Desa Duncan said Rafferty kept in touch by e-mail.
"Not too long ago he e-mailed me pictures of him and his wife and children. We've been keeping in contact."
Eugene Duncan is currently in Non-Commissioned Officer training school at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Eugene Duncan and Rafferty were like brothers in high school, according to Duncan's sister, Pauline Duncan, and Rafferty's mother, Sandra Rafferty Hustava. It was Rafferty who convinced Eugene Duncan to enlist.
"He's the one that talked me into joining the National Guard when we were in 11th grade. We got bored with that and he talked me into going active duty, and here we are, 19 years later," said Eugene Duncan.
Despite joining the military together, the two never had the same assignment, though they followed one another around the world.
Eugene Duncan said he was recently on the Beth-Center Web site getting information about their 20th class reunion next year.
"I figured I'd see him there," Eugene Duncan said.
Rafferty will be buried today at Arlington
National Cemetery with full military honors.
Armed forces turn out en masse for Rafferty funeral
By Christine Haines
Courtsy of the Herald-Standard
5 August 2006
Sandy Hustava couldn't even hazard a guess at the number of military personnel who attended her son's funeral Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.
"It was phenomenal. There were soldiers everywhere - paratroopers, special forces, engineers - each with their own special uniforms," the Brownsville woman said. "It was packed. I don't know how they could have gotten one more soldier in there."
Although her son, First Sergeant Christopher C. Rafferty, was with the 37th Engineering Battalion when he was killed in Afghanistan late last month, he had started out with the 82nd Airborne Division, Hustava said.
"He became something different with each promotion," Hustava said.
Hustava said soldiers approached her at the funeral, asking if she remembered them, but usually, she said, she didn't. Her son joined the National Guard with her permission when he was a junior in high school. Upon his graduation from Bethlehem-Center High School, he entered the Army. Although Rafferty grew up in Marianna, his mother and stepfather, Michael Hustava, have lived in Brownsville for the past 20 years and in his military records he listed it as his hometown. Rafferty and his wife, Wendy, most recently made their home in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with their two daughters, who are 11- and 13-years old.
"Everyone was so gracious," Hustava said of the service members.
Hustava said she was presented with a wooden box containing some of her son's medals. Hustava said the entire ceremony was very moving.
"The hardest part for me was when they brought
in the casket. I knew the end was near," Hustava said. "Another thing that
was very moving was when they did the gun salute and played Taps. It was
2 Soldiers Who Died In Combat Are Buried
Sergeants Wounded In Afghanistan, Iraq
By Arianne Aryanpur
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Saturday, August 5, 2006
Army First Sergeant Christopher Rafferty was set to retire from the military in a few years. He was thinking about buying a boat to indulge his interest in sailing. He was ready to watch his two daughters grow into young women.
Rafferty, 37, died July 21, 2006, in Sharana, Afghanistan, of injuries he suffered the day before when his unit encountered small-arms fire during combat. Yesterday, he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
Rafferty, who was assigned to the 37th Engineer Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was the 38th person supporting Operation Enduring Freedom to be buried at Arlington.
A strong breeze swayed the branches as Rafferty's coffin was carried from the black hearse to Grave 8,333. Many uniformed soldiers paid their respects. Friends said Rafferty was the consummate soldier and lived the seven Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
"He always did the right thing," said Captain Richard Ojeda, a friend in his battalion. "He was the top 10 percent."
When Rafferty's unit came under attack during combat operations, he made sure every man was in the bunker before he was. By that time, it was too late to save himself.
"He put his men well in front of his own safety. That's the reason he died," Ojeda said.
Many of the soldiers in Rafferty's unit cried when they heard of his death, Ojeda said. "It's sort of like losing a father figure," he added. "The bonds that are built between soldiers supercede those that are built on the playground."
Survivors include his daughters, ages 13 and 11, and his wife, Wendy, who was presented with a U.S. flag during the ceremony yesterday.
Master Sergeant Tulsa T. Tuliau, a soldier whose 14-year career took him to Bosnia, Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq, also was laid to rest at Arlington yesterday.
He was the 256th person killed supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried there.
Tuliau, 33, of Watertown, New York, was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 314th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 78th Division at Fort Drum, New York.
He was killed Sept 26, 2005, when an explosive device detonated near his Humvee near Rustimayah, Iraq. Also killed in the explosion was Sergeant First Class Casey E. Howe, 32, of Philadelphia, New York.
Tuliau's wife, Katharine, said her husband's interment at Arlington came nearly a year after his death because she wanted to honor him as close as possible to his birthday. He would have turned 34 four days ago.
Tuliau was raised in American Samoa and joined the military in 1992. In 1998, he met his future wife in Bosnia, where both were stationed. "It was love at first sight for both of us," she said.
Family members remembered the 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pound Tuliau as a "gentle giant." He was a "jokester," "shy" and "always smiling." An expert volleyball player, Tuliau downplayed his ability at family picnics, his wife said. "He was an incredible spiker, but around the family, he'd beach volleyball it across the net. He was very humble."
Tuliau phoned home from Iraq every day. Occasionally, he talked about how scary it was, but mostly he talked about the Iraqi children: how he gave them candy and how they reminded him of his daughters, Vanessa, 12, and Sophia, 4.
The girls and their mother led the procession yesterday to Grave 8,412, where an awning was placed to shield mourners from the sun. Uniformed troops held Tuliau's cremated remains.
The crowd, which included U.S. Deputy Secretary
of Defense Gordon England, stood somberly as a chaplain officiated. As
the wind picked up, England paid his condolences to the family. Then, the
guests slowly walked across the grass back to their cars.
To Michael Patterson via e-mail: November 2006:
I got your name and email off of the Arlington Cemetery website. First, I would like to thank you and whoever else works on this webpage. It was great to look at. My wife found it while searching the internet.
I am the Battalion Command Sergeant Major for the 37th Engineer Battalion stationed at Fort Bragg. We are currently deployed to Afghanistan. We lost our Charlie Company First Sergeant, Christopher Rafferty on 20 July during a mortar attack on our Base. He was killed in action instantly after being hit in the lower backside of his head by shrapnel. His original DOD news release stating his cause of death was incorrect. Since that time, our Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Degidio has contacted the CJTF-76 Public Affairs Officer and had the DOD release corrected. It has since been sent to CNN.com to correct their OEF casualties’ web page. I am forwarding you the original email traffic and the link below has the corrected DOD release on his cause death. The incident is also not under investigation.
When possible, please update the information on 1SG Rafferty’s web link and thank you again for this webpage dedicated to our Fallen Comrades.
Sincerely, Richard Cartwright, November 2006
RAFFERTY, CHRISTOPHER C
Posted: 25 July 2006 Updated: 4 August 2006 Updated: 15 August 2006 Updated: 28 August 2006 Updated: 1 October 2006 Updated 4 November 2006
Photo Courtesy of Holly, April 2009
Photo Courtesy of Holly, October 2006
Photo Courtesy of Holly, September 2006
Photo Courtesy of Holly, August 2006