December 2, 2004 0:49 AM
friend, proud American
Eagle Staff Writer
U.S. Army Capt. Todd Christmas woke up Monday morning eager
to take his first ride in a Black Hawk helicopter.
The trip — traveling from Fort Hood to Texarkana, where
he and six other soldiers would inspect repaired Humvees —
was all the career military man could talk about over Thanksgiving
break, a close friend recalled Wednesday.
CAPT. TODD CHRISTMAS
and funeral services for Capt. Todd Christmas:
• Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m. —
Receiving line for condolences at the 1-44 Air Defense
Artillery Conference Room in Building 10018, intersection
of 27th Street and Central Avenue at Fort Hood.
• Friday, 10 a.m. — Military
honors at the Christian House of Prayer, 3300 Stan Schlueter
Loop in Killeen. The phone number for the church is
• Friday, 2 p.m. — Funeral
services at Lifeway Fellowship Church, 4001 E. Elm Road
• Friday, 3:30 p.m. — Memorial
service at the New Mexico Military Institute Chapel.
• Monday, 11 a.m. — Burial
services at Christmas Ranch Road in New Mexico.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested
that a donation be made to one of the following:
• Corps of Cadets — Checks
should be made payable to TX A&M Foundation Corps
of Cadets, and “IMO Todd Christmas 2000”
should be written in the memo line. Donations can be
sent to the Texas A&M Foundation, 401 George Bush
Drive, College Station, Texas 77840-2811.
• New Mexico Military Institute Alumni
Association — Checks should be made
payable to NMMI Alumni Association, and “IMO Todd
Christmas” should be written in the memo line.
Donations can be sent to NMMI Alumni Association, 101
W. College Blvd., Roswell, N.M. 88201.
• Intrepid Foundation —
Checks should be made payable to the Fallen Heroes Fund,
and “IMO Capt. Todd Christmas” should be
written in the memo line. Donations can be sent to One
Intrepid Square, West 46th Street and 12th Avenue, New
York, N.Y. 10036.
“He loved what he did,” college roommate Jonathen
Lennox said from Killeen. “He was an American hero.
“We all thought he was Superman.”
Christmas, 26, was one of seven Fort Hood soldiers killed
Monday when the Black Hawk helicopter in which they were riding
crashed after flying into a support wire for a TV communication
tower obscured by heavy fog. All the soldiers were assigned
to the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division.
A 2001 Texas A&M University graduate and member of the
Corps of Cadets, Christmas spent a year serving in Iraq before
returning to his home in Killeen in March, friends said. He
had since been stationed at Fort Hood.
Geno Carrier, a close friend and fellow member of the Corps,
said he and his buddies closely tracked Christmas while he
was in Iraq, checking the Department of Defense’s list
of casualties each day to make sure he wasn’t among
them. And when Christmas finally returned home safely from
his tour of duty, everyone seemed to breathe a little sigh
of relief, Carrier said.
Eight months later, news that Christmas had been killed in
a tragic accident while flying across Central Texas in an
Army helicopter was almost unbelievable, friends said. But
Carrier, like many of his friends, said he takes solace in
the fact that Christmas was doing what he longed to do.
Carrier reflected Wednesday on the last time he saw his friend.
It was in September, when he went with Christmas and his wife,
Erica, to watch the A&M-Clemson football game at Kyle
The trio sat and talked, he said, catching up on old times.
“He said he was in for life,” Carrier said of
Christmas’ military career. “It was definitely
what he loved doing, what he felt he was meant to do. And
Erica, she was just as proud as can be of him.”
Christmas’ immediate family members declined to comment
for this story, but they did release a written statement describing
the soldier as an amazing husband and loving brother, son
and friend. The e-mailed statement also offers their prayers
and condolences to the families of the six other soldiers
killed in the crash.
“Captain Todd Christmas, an American hero who died doing
what he loved,” the e-mail states. “All who knew
him were touched by his spirit.”
‘A great American’
Christmas transferred to Texas A&M as a junior after graduating
from New Mexico Military Institute, a college preparatory
school and junior college, his friends said.
Breaking into a tight-knit group such as the Corps of Cadets
as a junior can be extremely tough, many of his friends from
the Corps acknowledged Tuesday. Most bonds and friendships
are forged during the freshman and sophomore years as underclassmen
fight to be accepted by higher-ranking juniors and seniors,
But Christmas, described as a great American and an uplifting
man who always was ready to help someone in need, quickly
gained the respect of his fellow cadets, several friends recalled
“He was a true leader. When he spoke, people really
took to him,” said Lennox, who met Christmas while the
two were enrolled together in the Corps. “He had a natural
outgoing personality — he could talk to anybody. He
was a quiet guy, but his presence was known, and everybody
Carrier recalled many a night in Aggieland when he and Christmas
— who served as best man in Carrier’s wedding
— would head to Hurricane Harry’s nightclub for
an evening of dancing, or to the Dixie Chicken to play dominoes.
The two also went together with a buddy in the Corps to get
a close-up look of the 1998 Aggie Bonfire after it had been
set ablaze and slumped to the ground. There they took pictures
and carefully fingered the smoldering logs and ashes.
Christmas even organized a collection for a fellow cadet who
couldn’t afford to purchase his tall, brown senior boots,
which cadets traditionally wear throughout their senior year,
Carrier said. The boots cost about $1,000.
“He was really a true friend. You don’t find those
often. I think that was probably his most endearing characteristic,”
Carrier said. “He was a true friend that cared about
everybody. That’s why he was in the Army — he
was protecting you and me and everybody else.
“That’s the characteristic about him that just
really makes him,” he said, awkwardly pausing in midsentence
as he realized he had spoken of his friend as though he were
still alive, “made him who he was.”
‘They were soul mates’
After completing their time in the Corps, Lennox and Christmas
shared a duplex during their fifth year of college as the
two worked to finished their degrees. While in college, they
also pledged the Kappa Sigma fraternity together, but Christmas
had so many other commitments — National Guard, Corps,
Corps Battalion staff and, of course, keeping up his grades
— that he didn’t have time to commit to the fraternity,
Lennox said. Christmas is considered an honorary member, though,
and many Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers were planning to
travel to Killeen for his funeral, he said.
It was during Christmas’ senior year at A&M that
he met Erica, his friends recalled. Erica was a member of
the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, and Todd often hung around with
brothers from Kappa Sigma.
Immediately, his friends agreed, Christmas was smitten. It
was as if he instantly knew, Carrier said, that Erica was
The couple, engaged under A&M’s Century Tree, celebrated
their third wedding anniversary Aug. 18.
“They were soul mates — and you could tell that,”
Lennox said in a grief-stricken monotone.
In the days before his death, the couple traveled to his home
in New Mexico, where they spent the Thanksgiving break. Lennox
said he is thankful Christmas was able to spend Thanksgiving
surrounded by family and friends.
Lennox last saw his friend on Halloween, when he spent the
evening at the couple’s home, catching up and passing
out candy to trick-or-treaters. He had been planning to drive
to Killeen to play golf with Christmas on Saturday.
Right now, Lennox said, he isn’t ready to talk much
about missing his friend. It’s too painful for him to
conjure up fond memories of Christmas and still remain strong
for his grieving wife.
“Right now, I’m not letting myself think about
it, because I’m here for Erica and I’m doing everything
she needs,” Lennox said, his voice stoic.
“I’m going to miss him, plain and simple. Everything
about him — his personality, his jokes, everything.”
• Holly Huffman’s
e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.