Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Promise to Remember a Life Lived

Scott A Christofferson 1947-1967

Yesterday October 8th, marked the 44th anniversary of the death of Specialist 4th Class Scott Christofferson, in Vietnam. I did not know Scott, and only became aware of him when a co-worker and nephew of Scott's sent out a small email message to the staff commenting on the anniversary of his uncle's passing and bringing attention to a little book that was published from a collection of his letters home. I first wrote about Scott two years ago and in pausing to remember a fellow soldier I am reprinting it in full.
Something happened today to bring memories flooding back of a time that I mostly try and keep locked away only to be visited in the company of those who have also held the lance. This morning, a young man sent out an email to all the employees where he worked, asking them to take a moment and remember his uncle Scott, whom had been killed in action on this date, October 8, 1967 while serving with the United States Army in Vietnam. He asked that those who got the email to visit the a youtube link to view a tribute to his uncle.
When I opened the link and began to watch, I saw the face of not only Scott, but the faces other's who had answered the call so long ago, smiling back at me like a mirror into my past. I came face to face to the reality that I lived on, and here a talented young man, who perished in the very flower of his youth is sending a message to the generations about service and commitment.
God in in his wisdom gave Scott a special talent to be able to convey his thoughts to paper. What follows is a little background on who Scott Christofferson was and continues to be, to those who chance to read his words.

The third of eight children to be born to Frank and Barbara Christofferson, Scott Christofferson was one of the original baby-boomers, born in Baltimore, Maryland, in November of 1947, less than 2 years after his father’s return from his tour of the South Pacific as a decorated Navy fighter pilot in World War II. The family eventually settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where Scott attended high school, graduating in 1965, and moving on to the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he hoped to major in journalism. He was an aspiring writer when he dropped out of college after just one semester, choosing to see the world first-hand as an enlisted GI-turned combat reporter during the turbulent Vietnam years.
Here is what I discovered about Scott and how he met his death in Vietnam. Scott served with the PIO section of the HQ Company of the 1st Brigade 101st ABN Division. He volunteered to become a combat reporter and soon began to travel with the 2BN 327th Infantry on their missions. On October 8, 1967 he was on a mission with A Company near Tam Ky when they were hit by two reinforced companies of North Vietnamese. Scott, joined in providing covering fire to allow his fellow soldiers to withdraw and refused to leave his position until all had been safely withdrawn. Scott was killed during this time. He was awarded the Silver Star , Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his valor, forty two years ago today.
Almost fifteen years after Scotts death, his younger sister Carrie discovered a box of his letters forgotten in a closet in her mothers home. After reading them she realized that they revealed a person whom deserved to be remembered for more that being a hero. She edited those letters and published them in a book to pay tribute to her brother and as she writes.
"We believe others will be able to gain insight into that period in American history by reading these letters, to develop an appreciation for the young men and women who sacrificed their youth in the jungles of Vietnam, and perhaps most significantly, to know well one specific young man whose journey from college dropout to Army combat reporter to fallen hero is brought to vivid life through his own words."
Buy Your Hero and Mine, Scott

On passage in Scott's book written  jumped out at me when I came across it as it introduced the final chapter entitled October 8, 1967. It was almost a perfect paraphrase of one of my favorite passages, written by another hero, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt during World War II.

Roosevelt wrote:
"The longer I live the more I think of the quality of fortitude--men who fall, pick themselves up and stumble on, fall again, and are trying to get up when they die."
Scott wrote:
"The jaded man stumbles again; for the last time. He tries with all his strength to regain his feet, But his muscles are all played out with past efforts, He dies struggling to stand once more, He dies grimacing with trial, But struggling with a faint sweet smile, For he knows he has lived."
After reading about Scott, I see how close the degrees of separation were in our paths. I too dropped out of college and joined the Army to serve my country. I was just a year older and for most of my time in Vietnam was also in and out of direct harm, in similar ways that Scott found himself. I was luck to find a small video tribute that his family had posted and share it below.
So as I sit here and watch that little clip and wipe the mist from my eyes, I say a silent prayer in the knowledge that I will remember Scott Christofferson and a promising life cut short, but given a measure of immortality in the little book he left behind.

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