CLINTON—He had volunteered to replace another soldier on his last tour, and he paid with his life.
Christopher Michael Ward, 24, died in southern Afghanistan on April 6, the victim of a suicide car bombing. The explosion also killed two other soldiers, a U.S. diplomat, and a Department of Defense civilian. They had been delivering donated books to children in Zabul province.
On Monday, Ward was honored when his name was added to the Veterans Memorial at the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton during a Memorial Day ceremony.
“It’s very heartwarming,” said his mother Joyce Ward of Oak Ridge, who is moving to Hinesville, Ga., on Tuesday. “His death was not in vain.”
Ward described her son—who posthumously received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal, as well as the Tennessee Fallen Heroes Medal—as a patriotic volunteer who gave all to his country.
“He would not ask anything of his solders that he would not do himself,” she said.
Before he died, Christopher Ward had volunteered to replace another soldier whose wife had just had a baby. Ward, who had attended Oak Ridge High School during his junior year, started his third and final tour overseas in October, and he had been scheduled to return home next month. He had served twice in Iraq, and this was his first tour in Afghanistan.
His plaque on the Veterans Memorial is now the fifth dedicated to veterans with Anderson County ties who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This gesture, while small, is to show his family our appreciation of Staff Sgt. Ward’s service, commitment, and devotion to duty that led him into harm’s way and the ultimate sacrifice of giving of himself so that we may maintain and live the lifestyle we as Americans are accustomed to,” said Leon Jaquet, Anderson County veterans service officer. “We owe Staff Sgt. Ward and all the men and women who have died defending America since our nation’s founding to live life to the fullest.”
The others honored for their service during the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan are Sgt. 1st Class Stephen C. Kennedy, who died in Iraq on April 4, 2005; Staff Sgt. Daniel M. Morris, who died in Iraq on Nov. 26, 2006; Staff Sgt. James D. Connell Jr., who was killed in Iraq on May 12, 2007; and Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, who died July 13, 2008, in Afghanistan. Friends and family members of those fallen soldiers attended Monday’s ceremony.
Jaquet said the Veterans Memorial includes a total of 181 names of Anderson County residents who died in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
He said a total of more than 1.3 million Americans have “made the supreme sacrifice” in wars and conflicts from the Revolutionary War to today’s War on Terrorism.
Monday’s ceremony included speeches by Jaquet, Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank, Tennessee Rep. John Ragan, and retired Col. Curtis Sexton, who is a former Anderson County medical examiner and now works at the Community Health Clinic in LaFollette.
“Let us never lose focus of what Memorial Day means,” Jaquet said. “It is not about beaches, picnics, and parades. It is a day to remember the promise President Lincoln made to ‘care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and orphan.’
“Memorial Day is about remembering those who made our way of life possible, a time to remember the sacrifices of our military men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice of unselfishly giving of their lives that we may enjoy the freedoms some people take for granted.”