L OVELAND — Hundreds of mourners paid their respects Friday morning to a Windsor man killed fighting in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Birdwell, 25, died Aug. 27 in Kalagush, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered from enemy small arms fire, the Army said. Birdwell was a 2005 graduate of Windsor High School.
Birdwell’s friends and family called him one of “America’s best,” a thrill-seeker and daredevil who loved fast cars, snowmobiles and jumping out of airplanes. But he also brought humor and light to any room he entered, mourners said.
“He lived life boldly and he stood out,” said uncle Jeff Riley. “He loved to make you happy and he loved to make you laugh.”
Riley added: “Chris is our hero.”
In a recorded tribute, younger sister Maley Birdwell recounted how her brother arrived home unexpectedly one day, snuck into the dark room where she was sleeping, flipped on the lights and started yelling. Loudly.
“He has a laugh I’ll never forget,” she said.
Birdwell, who was on his third combat tour in Afghanistan, was assigned to the 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based in Fort Carson. A large contingent of uniformed military men and women attended the funeral at Resurrection Christian church, and a table near the entrance displayed Birdwell’s combat boots and armor, alongside a snowboard and a motorcycle helmet.
Kirt Hughett, pastor at Windsor Church of Christ, told mourners that people like Birdwell protect American freedoms, not the poets who practice free speech, the reporters who exercise freedom of the press nor the politicians who court votes. Hughett urged mourners to thank the uniformed men and women attending Friday’s service.
And then he closed his remarks by quoting Birdwell: “In the words of Chris, peace out.”
Birdwell was to be buried in Fort Logan on Friday afternoon. Well-wishers lined the roads around the church, many of them carrying American flags. Birdwell’s funeral procession was escorted from the church through Windsor and then onto Fort Logan by Patriot Guard riders.
According to the Army, a vehicle in which Birdwell and his men were riding broke down. When they got out to fix it, an Afghan soldier opened fire on them, killing Birdwell and Spc. Mabry J. Anders, 21, of Baker City, Ore. The Afghan was then killed by an airstrike, the Army told Birdwell’s family.