A year after he was killed in Afghanistan, Washington and Lee alumnus Chris Coffland’s story continues to resonate in several different ways. Chris was a member of the W&L Class of 1988 and co-captained the 1987 Generals’ football team. He had joined the Army Reserve a month before he turned 42, the enlistment cut-off date. An intelligence specialist, he had volunteered for the mission on which he and two others were killed by an improvised explosive device. The alumni magazine published a story about Chris in the Spring/Summer 2010 issue, written by fellow alum Greg Esposito, Class of 2000.
This past Monday in Arlington, Chris’s friends and family gathered for a memorial service on the first anniversary of his death. As reported by WBAL television in Baltimore, the service was the first time that many of Chris’s family members met those with whom he served. And the event was also where the family announced plans for the Christopher Coffland Memorial Fund, which will raise money to help soldiers returning from combat.
As Chris’s sister, Lynn, told the TV station: “My brother was a hero, but his pain ended when he died. These [returning soldiers] have to live every day with that.” A website for the fund is currently under construction.
Meantime, as W&L’s ODAC champion football team plays Thomas More College on Saturday in the NCAA Division III tournament, they will continue to get motivation from Chris, as they have in recent weeks. Earlier this fall, Col. Lee Cummings ’86, a former teammate of Chris’s, delivered a special brick to Coach Frank Miriello and the football team. Athletic director Jan Hathorn told the story on the W&L Sidelines blog of how Lee had carried the brick during an eight-mile march that he and fellow soldiers in the Boston area staged this fall. They each carried in their backpacks bricks adorned with the names of their fallen brothers. Lee’s brick has Chris’s W&L No. 6, his name and the phrase “Lest they be forgotten.”
The brick resides in the Generals’ locker room, where players touch it on their way to practices and games. Lee had one rule for the brick: “Can’t touch it unless you are going to bring it!” He delivered the brick prior to the Emory & Henry game on Oct. 9. Since then, the Generals have won six in a row.