On 20 February 2010, Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Eckard was killed in action. Gunnery Sergeant Eckard was a team leader conducting a dismounted patrol in the vicinity of Patrol Base Barcha, Garmsir district, Helmand Province Afghanistan when he was struck by an IED and killed instantly.
Gunnery Sergeant Christopher W. Eckard, 30, of Hickory, N.C., died Feb. 20 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Chris Eckard was in Explosive Ordnance Disposal. It was his first assignment in Afghanistan. He pulled four tours of duty in Iraq, first as a combat engineer and then in EOD. He had disarmed hundreds of homemade bombs and other explosives, his brother said. Chad Eckard said it doesn’t appear that Chris was trying to disarm a bomb when the explosion occurred. However, details are sketchy. “A teammate was also injured,”Chad Eckard said, but will be able to return to duty. He said Chris was in the Army National Guard in high school, then joined after graduation.
He became a Marine in 2001. “The Army didn’t want to let him go,” he said, “but Chris wanted to be a Marine.” He was approved for promotion to gunnery sergeant, and was promoted posthumously.
First reports said Eckard was killed on Sunday in eastern Afghanistan. The Marine Corps did suffer casualties in that area. In all, five Americans died in Afghanistan over the weekend. “He was a super-cool dude,” said Gary Whitener, who remained friends with Eckard after graduation. “He was a role model, never in trouble,”said Whitener, owner of Air Force One Heating and Cooling in Hickory.
Solemn Tribute: (Hickory Daily Record)
By: Larry Clark
A cold wind could not diminish the tribute paid to Gunnery Sgt. Christopher William “Chris” Eckard on Friday. “Integrity” and “honor” were used often to describe the Marine who was killed in Afghanistan last month. A fellow Marine was injured the blast near Patrol Base Barcha in the Helmand Province on Feb. 20. Eckard’s family — his wife, two sons, mother and brother — was surrounded by friends, well-wishers and military personnel.
The family held a memorial service at Highland Baptist Church. Graveside rites were at Woodlawn Memorial Gardens. Along the route from the church, several people stood with respect. Veterans displayed flags, but none were bigger than the ceremonial flag draped over the entrance to Woodlawn. Ladder trucks from the Hickory and St. Stephens fire departments formed an arch from which Old Glory flew.
At the grave site, there were as many military uniforms as plain clothes with most branches of service represented. Marines outnumbered everyone as they paid their last respects to a fallen comrade with muted precision. Still, the emotion of the moment was evident.
Veterans of the American Legion, VFW and others who preceded the procession stopped talking of departed friends and their service when the black, horse-drawn caisson bearing Eckard’s body approached.
The Marine Corps League was close by. The activity of Hickory police, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who turned out for the service abruptly ended. The vanguard of the procession, members of the Patriot Guard Riders, each carrying a U.S. flag, formed a backdrop to the service.
Few words were spoken. Pastor Jess Lott read from John 5:28-29. Pastor Homer Green reiterated integrity and honor as characteristics of Eckard. He implored Almighty God for comfort and mercy.
And he recited John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
The stillness was broken by a 21-gun salute. Then, more silence, as the flag was folded and presented to Eckard’s wife.Marine after Marine approached the casket with a salute and a pin placed on the bier. The pins symbolize EOD, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Eckard’s specialty. He was attached to the 2nd EOD Co., Camp Lejeune.
The last two of four deployments to Iraq was with the unit. Eckard was in Afghanistan with the EOD when the explosion took his life. The Marines were joined by Army and Air Force personnel in approaching the casket. It was a fitting tribute to the man who served with distinction and made the supreme sacrifice for God and country.
The quiet lingered as family and friends departed and the Marines fulfilled the solemn duty of hallowing Eckard’s life and his resting place. “He was a fine, fine man,” a legionnaire said, wiping away tears.