CATAWBA, NC, USA
GYSGT, 8TH ESB, (EOD CO, BHG, MEB-A FWD) 2D MLG, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC
HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN 02/20/2010
A U.S. Marine from Hickory was killed over the weekend in Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Chris Eckard, a 1998 graduate of St. Stephens High School, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
His brother, Chad Eckard, said the family does not know the full story, but Chris was serving in southern Afghanistan. Amid the family’s sorrow, Chad Eckard talked about his brother’s responsibilities and commitment to service.
“This is hard,” he said.
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, Chad said. “He was to receive his bar soon.”
Chris Eckard will get the promotion, according to the military code. Initial information on the tragedy came from friends. 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.
“There are several of us who stay in touch. We’ve been sharing our memories on Facebook. It’s sad. It’s terrible. He was great, just great.”
Eckard is the second St. Stephens graduate to die in the war on terror.