Windsor High School graduate and Army Sgt. Christopher Birdwell, who planned to make the Army a career, was killed by enemy fire on his third tour in Afghanistan.
“He could make anyone smile,” Birdwell’s mother, Pam Birdwell, told The Denver Post on Tuesday. “There was just something about him that made him able to bring a smile to anyone’s face.”
Birdwell, 25, was one of two Fort Carson soldiers killed Monday in Kalagush, Afghanistan, the Defense Department said Tuesday. Birdwell was assigned to the 4th Special Troops Battalion of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. Spc. Mabry Anders, 21, of Baker City, Ore., also was killed.
While the circumstances surrounding his death are still under investigation, The Associated Press reported two soldiers were killed Monday when an Afghan soldier turned his weapon on international allies in eastern Afghanistan. NATO said in a statement that international troops returned fire and killed the attacker.
Birdwell, the son of Jim and Pam Birdwell of Windsor, graduated from Windsor High School in 2005. His father owns American Air Heating and Air Conditioning on the east side of Windsor, and his two sisters, Maegan and Maley, and brother Dustin all graduated from Windsor High School. Chris was the oldest of the four.
Windsor High School assistant principal Dick Thomas was in his second year at the high school when Birdwell was a senior, and said he remembers him as being a good student.
“He was just a good kid,” Thomas said. “He was a normal student.”
Thomas said it’s sad to hear when a former student passes away.
“It’s a bad deal,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t really matter how old they are. They’re former students, and you remember them. It’s sad when something like that happens, especially with him serving our country.”
After he graduated from high school, Birdwell enlisted in the Army at 18, and then later re-enlisted, his family told the Post. He was promoted to sergeant in February 2011 and was a squad leader with eight soldiers in his command. He also was airborne certified through the Army Airborne School and top of his class in Army sniper school, his family said.
Both soldiers were highly decorated with awards and medals: Birdwell received 20 commendations and Anders got 11, including several that were awarded posthumously, such as the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal. Birdwell’s other awards included two Army Commendation Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Combat Action Badge, and two Meritorious Unit Commendations, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Birdwell enlisted in the Army in March 2006, and first arrived at Fort Carson a little more than three years ago. He served three separate tours in Afghanistan between September 2006 and this month, including a year-long stint between May 2009 and May 2010, the paper reported.
The last soldier from Weld County to die in combat in either Iraq or Afghanistan was also from Windsor. Sgt. 1st Class Scott Brown was killed after his unit was hit by an improvised explosive devise attack and small arms fire in May 2007 in northwest Bagdad. Brown was serving in the 82nd Airborne.
Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District superintendent Karen Trusler said Birdwell’s death is a tragic loss for the community.
“He served his country, and we are grateful for his service and very saddened about his tragic death,” Trusler said.
Birdwell’s father, Jim Birdwell, told the Post that the Windsor community has shown them amazing support.
“We have a lot of friends and family who are here for all of us,” Jim said.