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Way To Go, Pops

1st Lt Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC died a year ago today. National Public Radio covers the story of his father’s enlistment in the Navy Medical Corps. Listen to the audio. It includes a revealing reference to Karl Rove and closes with words to make every father cry. Entire article is below the break.

UPDATE: Former Marine Tony Fuller ’89 sends this link. Read the whole thing.


NPR article:

When First Lt. Nathan Krissoff of Reno, Nev., was killed in Iraq a year ago, his father, Bill, an orthopedic surgeon, searched for a way to honor his son’s sacrifice. The 61-year-old decided to enlist in the Navy Medical Corps in the hope of being assigned to Iraq.

Krissoff is a taut, fit man who swims a mile every day. But a Navy medical recruiter told him that he was well past the enlistment age limit, and that getting an age waiver could take a year.

In August, the surgeon seized an opportunity when he and his wife, Christine, were invited to meet President Bush in Reno along with the families of other fallen soldiers from the area.

“He asked if there was anything he could do,” Krissoff said. “I said, ‘Well, there is one thing. I’d like to join the Navy Medical Corps. Is there any way you could help me with this process?’ And Karl Rove was in the room and he asked me to fax my papers to him in the White House.”

Within days, Krissoff received a call from Navy Medical recruiter Lt. Cmdr. Ken Hopkins, who said Krissoff had been granted an age waiver and had a stack of papers to sign to become a military doctor.

“When you’re in a hospital, you’re in an air-conditioned brick-and-mortar place. In an operational setting, he may be in a tent or in a field. So he’ll be learning how to care for patients in a different way,” Hopkins said.

‘Honored and Privileged’

Krissoff relishes the challenge of such a dramatic midlife change. He said he doesn’t see anything special about his enlistment and that he’s just following the example set by his sons.

Nathan Krissoff was, by all accounts, an extraordinary young man and Marine. He was a pianist, violinist and poet, as well as captain of his high school and college swim teams. Despite his many talents, friends say that Nathan was the most humble and selfless person they had ever met and that he was always looking for opportunities to help people.

Another son, Austin, is also a Marine lieutenant stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Bill Krissoff says most people understand why he’s joining the military, especially those who have lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan. But he says others think he’s crazy to give up a successful orthopedic practice to go to a war zone.

“I tell them I’m honored and privileged the Navy Medical Corps will have me,” Krissoff said.

Krissoff is now a Lieutenant Commander in San Diego, where he will be for a few months. He may be sent to Africa, then perhaps to Iraq.

My Marines will welcome him.

Navy Times article:

Call Dr. William Krissoff’s office in Truckee, Calif., and a voice on the answering machine says he’s no longer seeing patients.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, not the important part. It doesn’t tell about Krissoff’s son, Nathan, a Marine from Reno killed in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2006. It doesn’t tell about Krissoff’s decision to become a Navy doctor and serve where the war is being fought.

Dr. William Krissoff, 61, an orthopedic surgeon who opened his Sierra Nevada practice in 1979, is now Lt. Cmdr. William Krissoff, a newly commissioned officer in the Navy Medical Corps who reports for duty this week, a year, almost to the day, after his son’s death.

“My goal is to work in a combat surgical unit, a forward unit,” said Krissoff, who got some help from President Bush to reach his objective.

That came on Aug. 28 when Bush was in Reno to address the national convention of the American Legion, the country’s largest group of military veterans. Bush also met privately with eight families of Marines and soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group included Krissoff and his wife, Christine.

“We met with him for over an hour,” Krissoff said. “It was quite remarkable. It seemed he had all the time in the world. It was an emotional time for everybody.”

At one point, Bush went around the room, asking each family if there was anything they needed. Krissoff spoke up.

“I said, ‘I have something,”‘ Krissoff said. “I said, ‘I want to serve in the Navy Medical Corps.”‘

Before answering, Bush turned to Krissoff’s wife.

“He checked with her first,” Krissoff said. “He’s very sharp that way.”

Later, in an interview with the Grand Rapids Press in Michigan, where Krissoff grew up, Christine said, “I am not fine with the amount of time he’s gone. But none of the wives of the military people who serve are going to be fine with it. That’s just part of the deal.”

Krissoff doesn’t know where he’ll be assigned. But he’s training to perform surgery in a mobile field hospital in which wounded Marines receive quick attention.

“That’s been the innovation of medical care in Iraq,” Krissoff said. “There is sophisticated care within an hour, very close to the battlefield, if you will.”

Marine 1st Lt. Nathan M. Krissoff, 25, was killed outside Fallujah in Iraq when the vehicle in which he was riding was hit by a roadside bomb.

“The loss of a son puts a certain perspective on things,” William Krissoff told the Press. “It’s my turn to serve. I’m honored and privileged that the Navy will have me in the Medical Corps.”

The Marines use Navy doctors and nurses. That’s why William Krissoff joined.

“Marines don’t have their own physicians,” he said. “That’s what I’ll be doing. I will be assigned to a Marine unit wherever it goes. This was my goal.”

William Krissoff’s brother, Joel, who lives in Grand Rapids, wasn’t surprised.

“I think it’s something he wanted and needed to do,” Joel Krissoff told the Press. “He and Nate were extremely close. It helps him to deal with Nate’s being gone to get into this.”

Nathan Krissoff, who grew up in Reno, was a world-class kayaker, qualifying for the U.S. Junior National team with his younger brother Austin in 1998. Nathan graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he was captain of the swim team.

He joined the Marines in 2004. So did Austin, shortly before Nathan was killed. Austin, 24, is now a second lieutenant, stationed at Camp Pendleton in Southern California.

“Because of my family association with the Marines,” William Krissoff said of his reasons for joining the Navy Medical Corps.

After Nathan was killed, William Krissoff was visited by his son’s commander, Lt. Col. Bill Seely.

“He was crossing the country, visiting families who lost Marines from his unit,” William Krissoff said. “He spent a couple days with us. He talked about their battalion surgeon. I thought, ‘I’d really like to do that.”‘

Despite his intentions, William Krissoff’s age could have been a problem.

“They don’t want to look at people over 40, maybe 50 at the outside,” he said. “I didn’t qualify. You need an age waiver. It’s usually a lengthy process.”

A year, typically.

“There are security clearances,” William Krissoff said. “It’s very involved.”

But he had the White House on his side. A year was cut to two months.

“I was lucky,” William Krissoff said.

After the meeting with Bush in Reno, Krissoff’s case was handled by Karl Rove, then the president’s top political adviser, who turned it over to Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

By November, Krissoff was in the Navy. He’s assigned to the Marine Corps’ 4th Medical Battalion. Rove sent a note of congratulations.

Krissoff is headed for training. He knows how to be a doctor. But there are some things he needs to learn.

“Setting up a field hospital,” Krissoff said. “Land navigation.”

He’s leaving town. He’s closed his practice. There’s a message on his answering machine. It doesn’t say enough.

Nothing ever can.

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#1 Comment By Anonymous On December 9, 2007 @ 10:53 pm

Heard the story today on NPR. Both heart-wrenching and heart-warming. Will follow Dr. Krissoff’s remarkable honoring of his son with great interest.

#2 Comment By FROSH mom On December 9, 2007 @ 11:39 pm

Thanks so much for the NPR piece on William Krissoff. He is truly inspiring. And judging by his son Nathan, the saying “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” takes on new meaning.

As far as Rove….it is no surprise that he was able to take care of the crucial, behind-the-scenes details. He is very, very good at that.

#3 Comment By Anonymous On December 10, 2007 @ 1:18 am

My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Krissoff family during this time of year. I was fortunate enough to know Nate as a teammate and a friend and will never forget the valuable life lessons that he was able to teach me as captain of the swim team my freshman year. Nate was a special human who you could instantly befriend and who was fierely loyal. Nate was a born leader and used his social skills to become highly proficient in the difficult field of human intelligence before his untimely passing. I find myself thinking of Nate every day. Having become a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps myself, partially from advice given by Nate himself, I can’t help but try and model myself after 1st Lt. Krissoff. I can only hope that my Marines respect me as much as his Marines respected him.

At Officer Candidates School this summer (a 10 week program designed to determine whether candidates have the skills to become Marine Officers) it was often hard to keep focused on the tasks at hand. Whenever I started doubting my commitment I began to think of the ultimate sacrifice that Nate and other members of the Armed Forces have made for our country and decided I could push myself a little harder in my training.
On of the most emotional moments this summer came in week 9 of my training when I was eating breakfast at The Basic School (a 6 month basic officer infantry training course) with my fellow candidates. Having left the chow hall I found myself staring face to face with a picture of Nate smiling. I was looking at a wall of fallen heroes. After looking at Nate’s picture for what felt like an eternity, I immediately grabbed a few of my friends, brought them over to the wall and told them they story about my hero, 1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff.

While I have thought of Nate every day over the past year, I constantly remind myself that Nate died doing what he loved to do…serving his country and helping other people.

Farewell Marine!
The combat boots are empty
and finally they’re still,
They’re set carefully at attention,
they’ve marched up their last hill.

The rifle, too, is silent now
and unwaveringly erected,
Holding up the well-worn helmet
of the Marine it once protected.

One by one his comrades
somberly draw near,
Each raising one last salute
unashamed to shed a tear;

A time-honored tribute,
dating back to days of old,
As a reverent memorial
a stirring image to behold.

It bears witness to the bond
of a brotherhood of men,
The kind who only come along
every now and then.

These men who pass will carry on,
they’ve a mission to complete,
For our Country they will fiercely fight,
our enemies they’ll defeat.

But in his heart after this,
no Marine will be the same,
A hero is now known to him,
and bears his buddy’s name.

Wherever duty takes him,
whatever battles he may fight,
Never will he forget the friend
who gave his life for what is right.

Finally, the bugle sounds
Taps is softly played,
Time to say farewell, and say
a prayer for the sacrifices made.

This day the names of those who died
will be added to the List,
They will forever be remembered,
and will undeniably be missed.

Next time you see a proud Marine
in that uniform he wears,
Know his heart is strong and true
please keep him in your prayers.

He lives by a vow to protect and defend
no matter what the cost,
But to every Marine, it carries a name…
his buddy who was lost.
(“Farewell Marine” by Sandra Gilcher)

Semper Fi Nate Dawg!
2nd Lt. Brad Brecher
Williams College ’06

#4 Comment By Anonymous On December 10, 2007 @ 1:46 am

Godspeed to another Williams “athlete.”