Fallen Heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Remembering the servicemembers who died in the service of their country.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher R. Willoughby

29, of Phenix City, Alabama.
Willoughby was riding in a vehicle that rolled over in Baghdad, Iraq. He was assigned to Hotel Company, 121st Infantry (Airborne) (Long Range Surveillance), Fort Gillem, Georgia. Died on July 20, 2003.

Willoughby leaves behind a wife, Jeannine, and two sons, ages 9 and 1.

Please send information, photos, and corrections for Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher R. Willoughby.

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"Happy birthday Chris. You would be 43 today and been thinking about you all day. I miss you so much and so does your sister. Love you and hope you have a great birthday up there in heaven ❤️️😎Merry Christmas son☃️"
Dad of Fletcher,NC

"Hi Chris....Had a rough day on your birthday and all month thinking about you and the times we had together and with Sandy your sister. We miss you so much and we both talk about you. Love you and will never forget you as long as I live. Dad 12/21/15"
Bob Willoughby of Fletcher,NC

"Hi Chris....I was at the lake house on Sunday taking the pontoon out of the lake Sunday and just had to take a moment to stop and sit on the dock and thinking of you and Sandy. It was hard. Had to cry out. We miss you. Tonight I am looking at pictures and some letters from you. Love you and will always never forget you my son. Lets go skiing. Dad 11-10-15"
DAD of Fletcher,NC

"Chris....Tuesday was a rough day for me and I knew it would be. Always thinking about you and missing you. Love Dad 11-11-14"

"SFC Willoughby,
Sir, I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice for our Country."
Mike Casey of El Paso, Texas

"10 years has passed, but it seems just like yesterday. Hands down the best NCO I have ever had the honoring of knowing. You are and forever will be missed. AATW!!"
SSG Ilene Henderson of Fayetteville, NC

"THERE IS NOT ONE DAY THAT GOES BY THAT I DO NOT THINK OF YOU CHRIS. I MISS YOU SO MUCH. IT STILL HURTS. HOPE TO COME UP THERE AND SEE YOU SOME DAY. LETS GO WATER SKIING OR SNOW SKIING."
YOUR DAD of ASHEVILLE,N.C.

"To the family of Chris. I was the senior NCO of our Intell. unit who rolled into Baghad in Apr 03. As their NCOIC, Chris & I became friends, as they were our security force. Awesome group of guys who taught us a lot. I'll never forget his leadership of his guys & our short, but crucial friendship during a very dangerous time. He will never be forgotten."
Ken Hickey, 1SG (ret.) of New Llano, LA

"14 June 2011
We still remember! RLTW!"
SSG Ward, Jonathan of Peachtree City, GA

"I was a member of the Intel unit that H Co. provided Infantry support for in 2003. I didn't know SFC Willoughby well, but I remember the first time my team went out into Baghdad. SFC Willoughby's Humvee pulled up next to mine and he sat there making jokes and trying to do what he could to help us feel at ease going downtown. My team had just returned from the city when our platoon sgt. gave us the news. There wasn't a dry eye in B Co. as we grieved the loss of such a professional and dedicated soldier. SFC Willoughby typifies everything I love about this country, the Army and the Infantry. I am the Infantry- Follow Me."
Neal Hart of Minersville, Pa

""SFC Willoughby, I am going to OCS and leaving 2nd PLT." Chris responds, "So you’re going to the dark side huh?" I respond kind of laughing because I knew Chris was making a joke yet encouraging me on, "Roger, Sarrant."
He said that to me upon leaving H Co, leaving his platoon, leaving his mentorship. He was truly an inspiration and I wish all in this Nation could understand his dedication, quiet professionalism, and selfless service.
I remember him and a few other friends each and every day but on this day, Memorial Day, May 31, 2010, I couldn't help but write this message.
I wish the best to his children and wife and I am very happy to see some familiar names on this message board. He was a true warrior."
Adam Bailey of St. Augustine, FL

"22 Apr 10
Chris is remembered every day if my life. his is loss is a loss to the world as a whole. Rangers Lead the Way"
SFC McCray, Shane of Grants Pass, Or.

"I never want to forget the sacrifices of so many young men and women. I am so proud it makes me cry. I understand in theory only that war is a part of human nature but so is love and caring. I wish I could take the families pain away but I can't. I am committed to loving ALL people, myself and our environment. I am committed to working on my happiness everyday because so many have died for my freedom to live my life. Thank you is not enough but it is all I have. All my love and respect. ogersteiner@yahoo.com"
Scott E. Steiner of Worthington, OH

"Mrs Willoughby...I was part of the Public Affairs Unit who shot video of SFC Willoughby's memorial in Baghdad. I met the Sergeant in Ft. Stewart, Georgia while we trained to cross the big pond. He was a wonderful person. The video you received, I realize, was very shaky. And that was due me not being able to keep my composure...Please accept my apology for that. He and your family remain in our prayers."
Frank Acevedo of Largo, Fl

"I still miss Willy!"
Sizemore of Nashville, TN

"Jeannine,
I am so sorry. I have been trying to find you for a while and when i finally got a hit this came up. I do not even know where to begin. I would love to get in contact and talk. I have not seen you in such a long time.You and the boys are in my prayers and i am so very sorry to hear about your loss of Chris.
You are in my thoughts ,
Vanessa De Bie (Moyer)
russness@att.net"
Vanessa De Bie (Moyer) of Tustin, Ca USA

"1 October 2008,
You are still in our thoughts and family in our prayers.
Rangers Lead the Way"
John Gilliland of Columbus, Georgia

"July 16, 2008
To the family of Sgt. 1st Class Christopher R. Willoughby:
Christopher gave the ultimate sacrifice and will be held in the hearts of Americans forever. I cannot and will not let our fallen heroes be forgotten. My deepest sympathy to you. "Some gave all."
Peggy Childers
"Don't Let The Memory Of Them Drift Away"
www.IraqWarHeroes.org"
Peggy Childers of Carson City, NV

"SFC Willoughby was an inspiration as a Leader, a Soldier and a Man. He was the ultimate Soldier who daily lived, "The Ranger Creed."
SSG Erick Green of Fort Gillem Georgia

"LOVE for a loved one Never Dies"
JoAnn Hudson of G.P. OR

"Time passes, the pain stays, only a mother knows the pain I have loving you Chis, my pooh bear, God bless you and keep you waiting for me. when I get into heven, I will be searching for you son - Total Love & Blessings"
jodash / mom :-) of Grants Pass, OR

"I never got the chance to say goodbye...I was in Camp Arifjan when I got the call from the states on the day of the funeral. Our time together is my fondest memory of growing up. The brother I never had and the cousin I will never forget. I can never get the sound of your laugh out of my head nor do I want to. I will miss you till we meet in heaven."
Robert Chester of Riverside Ca.

"It has been a long time. I am sorry. Chris was my mentor and friend. I think of you daily and as you often said, when dealing with the boys: " I am already commited."

Chris was a man with integrity, honor, and values I aspire to display. He loved his wife and sons. Chris was a warrior in the romantic, thats why i joined the army, kinda way.

God bless your family. Some day I will find your children and tell them what kind of man you are. I say you are; because you are very much alive in me, and others today. I think of you fondly my friend. I am sorry. I have traveled that BIAP road many times since, after Co H. I think of you often and share your legend. I am in Seattle now and wish we were able to paddle out at westport togther! Wish our kids could play. Most importantly, my son will be a better man because of you.

RLTW!

Jennine(sp? SORRY), if i can ever do anything..."
Mike of Kirkland, WA

"Mrs. Willoughby and family:

I know it's been over three years now but I wanted to let you know that Christopher has not been forgotten. I still wanted to share my deepest sympathy with you. My heart goes out to you and your children. I hope the days have become a little bit more easier for your family. You're in my thoughts and prayers. My husband is with Co H. 121 and they're currently over there again. God Bless you Chris, Mrs. Willoughby and children. We will NEVER forget."
Traci Pate (Proud Army Wife) of Stockbridge, Georgia/USA

"To the family of:Christopher R. Willoughby I am so sorry for the loss of your love one. My heart cries out for you in your grief and you have my thoughts and prayers. He died a hero defending freedom. May you have the peace and understanding that only comes from God. Prayerfully we will all meet in Heaven one day where we will rest in the arms of Jesus. If you need prayer or need someone to talk to, please call or write my pastor: Rev. John Pearrell 11677 Brown Bridge Rd., Covington, GA 30016. (770)787-1015. Your friend in Jesus Christ, Polly Ballew Covington,Ga"

"Dear Mrs. Willoughby...
My husaband, Jason Strohmetz, served with your husband in Iraq...actually, Jason had told me that he & Chris had been sitting on his bunk going through a care package he had received, just prior to your husband's death. Jason was sent out on a mission and when he returned, he was devestated to learn of your husband's death. I was thankful that my husband returned home safely, but he didn't...nor did any of the others serving with your husband...come home the same person as he was when he left. I believe a part of each of them died when your husbaned died. Please know that Chris was greatly loved and is missed by his fellow soldiers every day. Soon, they will be returning to Iraq, and I am sure they will be taking the memory of Chris along with them. My heart breaks for your loss, and I am humbled by your immesurable sacrifice. God bless you & your family."
Marina Strohmetz of Warner Robins GA

"I served with SFC Christopher Willoughby
In Iraq and there is not enough room on this website for all the good things thatI would like to say about Chris. Seargent First class Willoughby
was My platoon Seargent and freind.
He could make you laugh while you carry the heaviest guy in the platoon to the
berm and back.He was such a great guy and I was honored to have been in the presence of him.I loved him like a brother and will always remember July 20,2003."
Specialist Burton(BIG-B) of Phenix City,AL

"To the Willoughbys,

I heard about "Will" when I got here, and can only express my deepest regrets. He was my team leader for a while in "H" Co. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about him, and what he would do when a certain situation or crisis would arise. It would probably be to make some hilarious, outrageous comment and then quietly drive on in the wake of a roar of laughter.
He is the example that every good soldier and man should follow, and if I add up to one-tenth of the person he is, I would consider myself blessed.
I would like for his family to know that he is the very best soldier I have ever met, and am thankful to have learned much from him.
I know that words means little, when a loved one is lost, but rest assured that the world, and everyone that came in contact with Chris, was made better by him. I would like to thank his parents for producing such a fine individual, and for his sons to know that they are the legacy of a great man. Me, and mine, will always be at your service when, and if, the need arises. davediazcua@hotmail.com
PEACE!! AIRBORNE!!!

"D"
Ne Desit Virtus"
Dave Diaz of F.O.B Cobra, Diyala Province, Iraq

"SFC Willoughby was my platoon sergeant. He was the best the Army could ask for. Strong, quite, smart, firm, and honorable. He was the example I still follow in my active duty career today. He set goals within me that I still strive to meet. There was no other man I would ever want to follow more than Willoughby. To his family, know that he was a man that every other man wanted to be, the best!!!"
Kenneth Bochat of Ft. Campbell, KY

"ONE FOR THE AIRBORNE RANGER IN THE SKY!
L.R.S. Lead The Way!
It's been 2 years and we still have NOT FORGOTTEN!!!!!"
Ward, Jonathan W. of Peachtree City, Ga.

"Dear Mrs. Willoughby and your sons, and Christopher's family, as the second anniversary approaches I wish to send my deepest condolences to you. Your Christopher is a true American Hero who will always be remembered and honored. May God Bless all of you."
Mary Ghaney of Brooklyn, New York

"I served with Chris for several years while assigned to H Co. and was always impressed by his humble, easy-going nature, despite the fact he had achieved so much in his short military career. I think it is important that his children know that he was one of the most honorable and respected men I have ever known. Just by his presence, he made all of us better soldiers and people. He exemplified the finest qualities a man can possess and did so with uncommon modesty and passion. He is missed, but always remembered in my prayers. To Jeannine and his sons, I am deeply saddened by your loss and I hope you find some comfort in knowing what a wonderful human being Chris was.
Thank you, Sergeant, for your sacrifice."
LTJG Michael Whittredge of New Orleans, LA

""SFC Willoughby was the most outstanding NCO I have ever met. He could always make you laugh and always took the time to make sure his men were completely competent in all their tasks. His passing left a hole in the unit that will never be filled. I am proud to have served with him in OIF.""
SGT Michael T. Behrens of Acworth, Georgia

"It was an honor to serve in SFC Willoughby's 2nd platoon in Company H Long Range Surveillance. As a leader he inspired -I'd follow him anywhere. As a friend he offered a good laugh and great advice in one of the most helpless situations -I'll always remember it. He possesed character and dignity uncommon in even the best of men.

"Blue Skies Ranger""
Andrew Claxton of Atlanta, Georgia

"Thank you brave soldier for sacrificing your today for my children's safer tomorrow. You have our utmost respect and gratitude. May God provide your family with comfort in their time of sorrow. May you forever rest in Heavenly peace. Neither you nor your sacrifice will be forgotten."
a grateful citizen in arizona

"In Loving Memory..Its been a year..

At the rising of the sun and at its going down, We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of Winter, We remember them.
At the opening of buds and in the rebirth of Spring, We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of Summer, We remember them.
At the rustling of leaves and the beauty of Autumn, We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends, We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live;
for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
Rest in Peace Dear Soldier!!! We will NEVER FORGET!"
The Grogan Family of Lakeland, TN

"SFC Willoughby was a Ranger's, Ranger. He never boasted about his many accomplishments, just carried them with quiet professionalism. Everyone respected him and honored his requests as though they were a message from the commanding general. He spoke of home, wife, sons and career often. He was anxious to get back to a fresh new career in accounting after graduating from Auburn University before being deployed. We had many talks about what we were going to do when we got back. I cherish those conversations now. I admired the hell out of Chris. A short list of his many accomplishments: 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regimental Recon, Ranger School, Scuba School, HALO School, HALO Jumpmaster School, Airborne School, Jumpmaster School (Master Parachutist), EIB & CIB. There are many others to note, however, those were the obvious.
Chris led without vindictive charisma. He truly put you at ease without elevating any given situation. His expertise and knowledge were apparent and never questioned. At a young age, he was already more mature than most. His stories from the past were always entertaining and somehow motivational. His ability to always keep himself in shape was with consistent fortitude most of us only wish we could obtain. I would see him many times, slip off in the distance and brush up on his pull-ups/push-ups while others were taking a break and enjoying a bit of free time. He put others before himself and constantly asked were his services were needed. He took care of our platoon and for that, we are forever thankful. We knew that when he was in charge, we would all be in the best of hands. His presence immediately displayed an air of confidence.
The only bad thing about Chris was that he left us “too soon”. However, God had a more important mission for him than we can surmise. From the members of 2nd Platoon, Co H. 121st Inf. Airborne, Long Range Surveillance, we salute you and your family Chris.
We will always remain at your wife and sons’ beckoning call. It is our mission to insure that his two boys know what an incredible person their Daddy was. Wendy and I will always be there for you Jeannine, never hesitate to ask.
Rangers Lead the Way."
John Gilliland of Columbus, Georgia

"I am proud to say I served with Chris during OIF. He mentored and inspired the men he lead. I am a better NCO after serving with Chris. He loved his family and his country. Words can't describe the contributions Chris made to this world. I will always remember 20 July as a day the Army lost a true warrior and I lost a good friend. The Ranger community will miss you!"
Shilo Crane of Ft. Gillem, Ga.

"I was watching NightLine and was shocked to see Chris's picture on their Fallen Heros show. I just wanted to express my deepest sympathy and gratitude for all that he and all of the others have done for our country. I went to high school with him. We were on the swim team together. This news brings me great sadness. Please know how grateful I am for the time that I was his friend. His family and friends are in my prayers constantly."
Teresa Lanouette Nicholls of Ontario, CA

"I am lucky enough to call Chris my friend. He and I attended basic training, Airborne School, and the Ranger Indoctrination Program together in 1992. From there we were both assigned to Weapons squad, 3rd Plt, C co 2nd Ranger Bn in Ft. Lewis Washington. We stayed in the same platoon for the next 4 years. Through thick and thin, good times and bad, Chris smiled his incredible smile. I can honestly say that if it were not for him, I would not be who I am today. I am extremely proud of Chris. I was able to watch him turn into a great soldier, a great husband, a great father, and a great man. He truly embodied all of this. I am proud to have known him and very proud to call him my friend."
Marc Schmeeckle of Fort Collins, CO USA

"We Will NEVER FORGET !"
Please KNOW so many people share your sadness, and we are remembering your family in your loss and your deep grief. Your HERO, Christopher, will be remembered by name. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. God Bless you. Pat & Sandi Breckenridge from Montana "

"Sergeant Willoughby, goodbye soldier and thank you. You are my hero."
Bill of Houston, Texas

"I was proud to serve with SFC Willoughby during Operation Iraqi Freedom and as a member of Company H 121st Infantry (Airborne)(Long Range Surveillence). He was the ultimate senior NCO, Ranger, family man, and without question one of my finest friends. He will be missed."
SGT Trey Davis of Alpharetta, GA

"Jeannine, looking through the Time magazine article that pictured all of our fallen Heroes, I was stunned to see a picture of Christopher among the fallen soldiers. I am not sure if you remember our family. Trevor Thomas ring any bells? Chris was the best friend Trevor ever had, and our entire family was shocked when I told them of the news. I live in Tennessee with my husband and two sons, while Trevor and my family remain in California. I looked for you everyday somehow on the internet to try and contact you to let you know how much we love Chris. Google does wonders! Please contact me and let me know if you need anything or just to talk. I would love to hear from you. E mail me at peyausmommy2003@yahoo.com or call (423)737-1290"
Kristin Thomas-Bennett of Johnson City Tennessee

"My husband served proudly in Operation Iraqi Freedom with SFC Willoughby as a member of the 221st, and speaks of him as a fine soldier and a good man. He will not be forgotten. May God bless you."
Jennifer Long of Conyers, GA

"My husband is serving with the 221st overseas. I want you to know that that your husband, Christopher, is not forgotten. We continue to remember your family, the sacrifices you made, and the loss you have endured. May God give you comfort and strength in the days ahead."
Jennifer Burke of Kennesaw, Ga

"Thank you Christopher Willoughby, you will not be forgotten. Your bravery goes beyond words. I want to express my deepest gratitude for your sacrifice. To the family and friends, my prayers and deep condolences in your loss. May God strengthen you from knowing that fellow Americans and people around the world care about you and grieve with you in your loss. God bless you all. A very appreciative fellow American,"
Leo Titus of Grayslake, Illinios

"To the Family you are in my prayers...May God bless you. I do want to say it was a honor to have him in our military Thanks for serving our country"
Stacey (Proud Army Wife) of Zephyrhills.Florida

"To Mrs. Willoughby and family. Though I did not know your husband, he and I share a mutual friend. I recieved a letter from Iraq sent by him today. His brief sentences concerning your husband speak volumes, "One of our most beloved unit members died in an incident 4 days ago. He was my platoon sargeant, friend and mentor...Please keep his family in your prayers. He is survived by a wife and two sons, 9 and 1."
On behalf of a grateful nation,"
Staff Sargeant Scott Wells of Louisville, KY

"We will never forget the sacrifice Chris made for all of us. He was a great friend and an awesome husband and father. Anyone that knew him, should consider themselves blessed."
Kevin McGuire of Phenix City, AL

"To the family and friends of Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Willoughby:
May God's grace be with you during your time of grief. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and we feel your loss and share in your sorrow. Bless Christopher for the sacrifice he has made to make a better life for the rest of us."
The Ford Family of Wells, Nevada

"To the family and friends of Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Willoughby:
I am saddened by the loss of your loved one. He will always be remembered as a hero for fighting for freedom. I hope that this website will be a source of comfort and encouragement for you during this difficult time, and in the future as you recall the memories of Christopher, who continues to live on in your heart."
Tim Rivera of Powder Springs, Georgia

Honor them by remembering... Freedom - is their gift to us But his soul goes marching on