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His Calling

The Transcript obituary for Nate Krissoff covers familiar ground.

Krissoff graduated from Williams in 2003. He majored in political science and was the captain of the swim team in his senior year. He also played on the water polo team and was an accomplished whitewater kayaker.

“He was a laid-back, happy kid who really seemed to have things in good balance,” Williams swim team coach Steven Kuster said Tuesday. “I pictured him over there feeling like he was really doing what his calling was.”

Indeed.

Also, kudos to the College for providing Nate’s rank and service on its homepage link and for flying the flag at half-past for two days. These are thoughtful gestures, generously offered.

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Krissoff’s half-staff flag at Christmastime

krissoffhalfstaff.jpg

I didn’t see David’s specific request for a picture so I didn’t take his picture with the mountains and lawn; I took a picture that tells a slightly different story.

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Flag at Half Mast

From the College:

Campus Flags at Half Staff

The College flag will fly at half-staff this Thursday and Friday in memory of Nathan Krissoff ’03, USMC, who died last weekend while on active duty in Iraq. Information is available at http://www.williams.edu/home/focus/krissoff/

from Beatrice M Miles, Facilities

Kudos to the College for this thoughtful gesture. I don’t know if there are enough people who knew Nate still on campus to make it worthwhile to have a brief gathering by the flag today or tomorrow. The College will almost certainly be organizing a full scale memorial service for Nate in 2007, the better to allow time for his family to be present. But, in the meantime, it still might be nice, especially given the warm weather, to gather tomorrow and say a few words. Perhaps someone will mention this to Chaplain Rick Spalding.

Request: Could someone please take a picture of the flag at half-mast, maybe from somewhere around West to capture the full sweep of the lawn and the mountains beyond? We would like to post this picture for all the Ephs away from campus.

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Krissoff Service Announcement

Service details from the family of 1stLt Nate Krissoff ’03, killed in action in Iraq last week. (Related posts here.)

Thanks to everyone for their love and support during this difficult time.

To commemorate Nathan’s life, a formal service will be held at Nightingale Concert Hall, University of Nevada Reno, the 23rd of December 2006 at 10 am. Graveside military honors will follow at the Mountain View Cemetery. A reception will be held afterward at the Hidden Valley Country Club.

We have reserved 13 double rooms for the 22nd and 23rd at the Peppermill, to be confirmed shortly, for Marines and guests coming from the Stevenson, Middlebury, Williams and DC communities. Since attendance is encouraged, travel reimbursements will be arranged as needed.

If coming earlier or staying later, or not included in the above groups, reserve a room as soon as possible at the following recommended locations:

1) The Peppermill Hotel Casino (800) 648-6992
2) The Atlantis (800) 723-6500
3) The Grand Sierra Hotel (800) 648-5080

Sincerely,

The Krissoff Family
4325 Caughlin Parkway
Reno, NV 89509

More details below.

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Gem

An article about Nate Krissoff’s ’03 time in high school (hat tip: WSO).

Most things came easily to Nathan Krissoff.

He was an accomplished student, athlete and musician, said his friends, who attributed his successes to his tremendous focus and discipline.

Krissoff, a 1999 Stevenson graduate and first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, died Saturday in Iraq’s Al-Anbar province while serving as a counterintelligence officer. He was 25.

His death was caused by an improvised explosive device, or IED, his family said. The Department of Defense has not officially stated Krissoff’s involvement when he was killed.

IEDs are the unexpected weapons of this war. Want to better understand what Marines are facing? Start with Michael Yon, the best war reporter of his generation.

A boarding student while attending Stevenson, Krissoff’s family lives in Reno, Nev., and has a house in Carmel. While at Stevenson he competed in water polo and swimming, earning all-league honors and serving as captain of the swim team.

“He was a very special kid in many ways, not just intellectually, but musically, athletically and in his involvement in the community,” said Rob Klevan, who coached Krissoff and directed him in the Stevenson orchestra. “He was just one of those gems… I’ve been teaching a long time, and he stands out.”

Stevenson is flying its American flag at half staff in honor of Krissoff.

Does Williams still fly an American flag in front of Baxter/Paresky? If so, the College should also put the flag at half mast, at least until the funeral.

Peter Jamison, a high school friend, remembered Krissoff as a hard worker with a lighter side.

“Nate had a really quirky, dry sense of humor that I really appreciated,” said Jamison, who now lives in Vermont. “He was very focused on things he did. He was an extremely disciplined person, but not in a way that came off as uptight. He always seemed relaxed.”

Jim Fannin, Krissoff’s junior varsity water polo coach at Stevenson who remained close to him, described Krissoff as a hard worker, a stand-up citizen and a community leader.

“He always had a great attitude,” said Fannin. “He was not a guy you ever really saw down.”

A member of the U.S. Junior National Kayak team, Krissoff went on to earn a degree in International Affairs from Williams College in Massachusetts, where he competed on the swim team, then spent a year living in Europe before joining the Marines in 2004. He was deployed to Iraq in September with the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion.

Over time, we will be gathering more information about Nate’s service. Marines in reconnaissance battalions, called “Recon Marines,” are the elite within the elite. One Bullet Away by Dartmouth graduate Nathaniel Flick describes Recon well.

The Krissoff family released a statement that said the Marines “were his first priority… He was a tremendously loyal son, brother and American who made the ultimate sacrifice for the defense of his country.”

The funeral is planned for Monday in Reno.

More details as we get them.

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USMC

The Williams hompage is now reporting the news on Nate Krissoff’s death. The link reads “Nate Krissoff ’03 killed in Iraq”. Although this is a small point, better that it were “1STLT Krissoff, USMC ’03 KIA”. Every Marine killed in action wants his branch of service made clear. Krissoff’s identity as a Marine is more important than the particular country in which he died. His rank should be included as well.

This may seem a quibble. Certainly the needs of the College, in terms of identifying Nate’s class, are important. The webpage design limits the number of characters available. Yet there is no doubt in my mind that Nate would want the four letters “USMC” included somehow.

I will make this suggestion to the College. Will they listen?

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Krissoff ’03, RIP

A statement from the family of Nate Krissoff ’03.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of our eldest son, 1st Lt. Nathan M. Krissoff USMC. Commissioned in June 2004, Lt. Krissoff deployed with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in Okinawa, Japan in September, 2006. Lieutenant Krissoff was the battalion’s counterintelligence officer. He routinely took part in patrols throughout al-Anbar Province. During his deployment, we were able to speak to him frequently by satellite phone. In every conversation, it was apparent that his Marines were his first priority. He consistently and courageously led them from the front. Through good and bad, he reminded us that the media could not possibly capture the complete picture — the heroism he witnessed among his Marines nor the satisfaction and pride they shared in protecting and defending civilians to create a more stable Iraq. His commitment to his family, the Corps and his country never wavered. He was a tremendously loyal son, brother and American who made the ultimate sacrifice for the defense of his country.

Please send all questions or emails to Austin Krissoff at akrissoff _at_ hotmail dot com. Services will be held the week of the 18th, to be confirmed at a later date. A contact list is being made.

Condolences to all.

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Death in Iraq

How many of us noticed this news item from Iraq?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RELEASE No. 20061209-10

Dec. 9, 2006

Marine killed in Al Anbar

Multi-National Corps – West PAO

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – One Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died today from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province.

The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.

There is no reason for any Eph to have read this particular story, to have given a thought to this specific Marine, another warrior fallen in a long and bloody conflict, a nameless soldier who will never see another sunset, who will not celebrate another Christmas.

Recall the poem engraved inside the war memorial atop Mt. Greylock.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

That young Marine is now among the honored dead, having given his life so that my young daughters might sleep safely in their beds tonight.

Yet others are ready to take up the torch thrown by that Marine. How many of our readers know that two Williams seniors will be commissioned as officers in the Marine Corps this spring, will take their place as leaders in the most storied fighting force of the last 100 years? Perhaps they will swear their oaths as Jonathon Dailey ’91 did 16 years ago, in Chapin Library, in front of an original copy of the Constitution. Repeat after me.

I, David Kane, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.

These words, whether uttered by me or Jon Dailey ’91 or Preston Parrish ’41 or Myles Crosby Fox ’40, link soldiers across the generations, back to Colonel Ephraim Williams and beyond. The wording changes but the solemn pledge to honor, duty and sacrifice — to serve a cause larger than yourself — remains constant.

And, if these Marines do swear their oaths at Williams on graduation weekend, perhaps the College will record the event, will take a picture to mark the occasion. Perhaps the College will place that photograph on the cover of the Alumni Review, as it did with Dailey’s.

But if Williams does honor these new Marines, will Professor Mark Taylor complain as he did about the photograph of Dailey? Will he insist that the College is wrong to glorify military service, that a picture of a Marine Corps commissioning ceremony — even if it features an Eph, even if it occurs at Williams — has no place in a College publication?

Perhaps. And if not him, then some other faculty member, if not publicly, then privately. The depth of antagonism among a certain segment of the professoriate against all things military is hard to appreciate unless you have experienced it firsthand.

When I first argued against Taylor about this a decade ago, the issue of military service and risk was mostly theoretical. The end of history was upon us and the notion that military Ephs might be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice was faintly ridiculous. But times have changed.

That Marine who died in Iraq, unnoticed by all of us amidst the hectic bustle of our overflowing lives, was an Eph (not an Eph who appears here or anywhere in EphBlog). He gave his life for us, for our families and our future, for our very freedom. What does Mark Taylor now think about what belongs and does not belong on the cover of the Alumni Review? Kipling said it best:

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country,” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
But Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!

Indeed he does. Kipling’s Tommy captures the essential tension between the military and the wider society which it serves and protects. The argument between Mark Taylor and the Marines of Williams is one small example of that conflict, a dispute made all the more poignant when Death calls in a marker.

It has been 30 years since an Eph gave his life in the service of his country. May the next such sacrifice be decades away as well.

Condolences to all.

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Remembering 1st Lt Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC

How can members of the Williams community best remember First Lieutenant Nathan Krissoff ’03, USMC, killed in action in Iraq on December 9, 2006? I recommend writing down memories of Nate. Details below. (Related posts available here.)

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