To the memory of SPC Christopher Andrew Merville.
I have attached a few photos of my son, Spc.Christopher Andrew Merville, who gave his life for freedom while patrolling with the U.S. Army on duty in Al Anbar Province, Iraq on 12 October 2004.
I like Chris' look in the uniform with the beret - quite jaunty. The second photo was taken while he was at Camp Casey, South Korea, before he deployed to Iraq. He was very inquisitive and loved to explore new places. This photo was taken while he was on a day hiking trip in the area. The third photo is his official portrait in the desert uniform. I think that he grew much more confident during the year that he was stationed at Camp Casey, and it shows in this photo.
Chris was older than most when he entered the Army in February 2003. He was 24. He had been interested in the Army since he was a boy, reading the old newspapers and magazines and photos that my dad, Pete Potocky, had saved from WWII, and handling the Nazi memorabilia that my dad had brought home from his service in the Army in Europe.
My dad died when Chris was 3 years old, so he didn't have meaningful conversations with him about life in the military, but he was very interested in history. Chris' father, Joseph Merville, served in the Army in Vietnam. Joe encouraged Chris' study of military history, and they took many trips to Civil War battlefields with Joe's brother Ed, and our second son, Matthew.
Joe and I divorced in 1987, but we had a workable relationship with shared custody of our sons. Joe died suddenly on 4 April 2001 from congestive heart failure. Chris was living in another apartment in the fourplex where his dad lived. When Joe's employer called Chris to ask why Joe had not reported to work, Chris went to the apartment to check on him, and found him dead in his bed. Chris was taking college coursework at the time, plus working full time as assistant manager of an electronic games store. After his father's death, Chris worked his grief with overeating and partying, but he kept up his classwork, especially his study of the German language. He had taken 4 years of German in high school, and he spent his senior year as an exchange student in Geldern, Germany under the sponsorship of the Congress/Bundestag Exchange program.
The summer of 2001, Chris took time off from the job to spend 4 weeks in the Taos, NM Ski Valley at an intensive study program on the German language that included other students from the Universtiy of New Mexico along with several out of state institutions. He was good at sharing his love of the outdoors with his friends, and led several hikes into the mountain terrain around Taos. Part of addressing his grief was to examine his faith in God. He increased his study of the bible and other spiritual texts and joined the Newman Center at the University of New Mexico.
This increased spiritual strength supported him later during his hazardous duty. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Chris felt a very personal need to respond to the attack on America. He continued his classwork for another semester, but the combination of working the grief of his father's death, and the concern about global terrorism, caused him to decide to drop out of his linguistics program and to prepare to enter the Army as a method to honor his father's and grandfather's military service.
Because he had gained significant weight in a short time, he began participating in PT (physical training) with the Army recruiter in addition to his own personal workout regime. I have very fond memories of that year as Chris and I walked the dogs for several miles at a session, and talked of many things. These sessions formed our adult to adult relationship. As he became more physically fit, he also became more confident of his choice of military service.
There was a mix up in paperwork, so rather than entering service in November of 2002, he started Basic Training in February 2003 at Fort Sill, OK for artillery. Matt and I drove from Albuquerque in May to attend his graduation from Basic Training. I still love the photo we took of him proudly standing under the sign at Fort Sill that shows "Soldering Starts Here".
His first assignment was to Camp Casey, South Korea. While he was in South Korea, he met a Philippine citizen, Renabeth Luis, who was working in the country . They were engaged to marry just before the announcement of the unit's deployment to Iraq. Chris sent Renabeth home to the Manila, Philippines area in July 2004 when he left for Kuwait.
In early September during a phone call home, Chris told me that he would take his mid-tour leave to go to the Philippines to marry Renabeth. In two letters that his brother Matt received from Chris a few days after we learned of his death, Chris told his brother how excited he was to be getting married, and that he wanted Matt to be his Best Man at the wedding. He planned to return to college after his enlistment to complete a degree to use his skills in international business.
It would take so much space to talk about the various qualities that made Chris so unique. He should be remembered for his wit, his love of learning, his enjoyment of new adventures, his protection of his younger brother, his courage, loyalty to his nation, his pursuit of perfection, his concern for his fellow soldiers, and his leadership abilities. We who have known him are enhanced by his touching our lives in so many special ways. Pray for the souls of our Fallen Heroes, thank our veterans, and rejoice in the freedom we live in the USA earned by so many wonderful men and women.
Thank you for your actions to honor our military service members.
Proud Mother of Spc. Christopher A. Merville
KIA 12 Oct 2004 Al Anbar, I