Karl Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal.

A Family’s Valor, a Nation’s Freedom
Why would a 61-year-old civilian surgeon volunteer for Iraq?

At a dinner last week in California, I was reminded of the debt we owe to those who have, for 233 years, sustained our freedom and independence. One remarkable family in particular exemplifies the best in the American spirit of courage and sacrifice.

Sitting at my table was a friend, Christine Krissoff, wife of Dr. Bill Krissoff and mother of Nathan and Austin Krissoff. One of her sons, Marine First Lt. Nathan Krissoff, was killed in Al Anbar Province in December 2006. A Williams College grad, athlete and musician, he’d left for Iraq on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He was 25.

Initial report of Krissoff’s death here. Update here. I cry almost every time I read about Krissoff. Do you?

I met his parents and brother in Nevada in August 2007 while accompanying President George W. Bush to Reno, Nev. The president was there to address the American Legion before meeting with local families who’d lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan. Mr. Bush has met with about 550 families in private visits like this.

Say what you will about Bush, but he deserves credit for these meetings. I can’t even begin to imagine how emotionally draining it must be. Does President Obama do the same? I hope so.

krissoff_family
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times. The caption:

Dr. Bill Krissoff, far right, is seen in a family photo with, from left, his son Austin, who is a Marine Corps officer; his wife, Christine; and his son Nathan, a Marine who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006. To honor Nathan, Krissoff closed up his orthopedic practice in Truckee, Calif., and, at age 60, joined the Navy medical corps in hopes of being assigned to Iraq to treat wounded troops. It took presidential intervention to get Krissoff a waiver from the military’s age limits on enlistees, but now he is on the verge of deploying to Iraq with a Marine unit.

Can anyone place the photo? My guess would be either a graduation ceremony at Quantico or a pre-deployment good-bye from Camp Lejeune. Back to Rove:

At those meetings, he would have a senior staff member close by in case there was something that needed to be followed up on, such as getting a flag to a family member.

We entered a small room in the back of the convention center to find the Krissoffs waiting — the father in a black suit with his arms crossed and the mother in a plain dark outfit. Their dress contrasted with their son Austin’s Marine dress uniform. Like his older brother, Austin had volunteered for service after college. He was to be deployed to Iraq in March 2008.

During my White House years, I saw few people with the quiet power, intelligence and poise of Chris Krissoff. She talked about her sons, the pain of her loss, her concern for her youngest when he went into harm’s way, and the stakes in the War on Terror. The entire time, her husband was quiet.

The bravery of Christine Krissoff humbles me. To lose a son and then watch another son and husband go off to war is more than any woman should have to bare. Kipling’s The Female of the Species includes these stanzas:

She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity—must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions—not in these her honour dwells—
She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.

She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!—
He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

Christine Krissoff will never have the chance to face death in the place of the father and son that she loves, but her war is no less real for that distance.

Back to Rove:

When stories had been told, tears wept, and grief expressed, Mr. Bush asked if he could do anything. At that, Bill Krissoff spoke.

“Yes,” he said. “I’m a pretty good orthopedic surgeon. When my younger son is deployed to Iraq next March, I would like to be working as a Navy medical officer, but they won’t let me because I am 61 years old. Will you give me an age waiver, Mr. President?” Mr. Bush pointed to me. Dr. Krissoff and I exchanged business cards and he promised to fax me his application.

Krissoff received his waiver and is now serving in Iraq. Here is a photo from his training at Camp Pendleton.

krissoff

Rove, after wasting some time telling us about his dove hunting schedule, concludes with:

Bill emailed me this April about his duties as a combat surgeon in Iraq. He sent photos of himself with Austin, who is now on his second tour there. This is how father, mother and brother are honoring the sacrifice of Nathan. While sharing this story with the audience last week, I found myself unable to look at Christine until I finished and the crowd rose to applaud her.

Watching the smoke rise from the Battle of Bunker Hill, Abigail Adams wrote her husband John, who was away at the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. While she and others lived “in continual Expectation of Hostility,” Abigail wrote, “like good Nehemiah, having made our prayer with God, and set the people with their Swords, their Spears, and their bows, we will say unto them, Be not affraid of them.”

Christine Krissoff’s husband and sons, wrapped in prayers and armed with swords and scalpels, have served our nation with valor. So has she. So long as our nation produces families like the Krissoffs, America will remain not only the greatest nation on earth, but also the most noble in history.

Indeed.

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