by Stalwart 2. (Originally published May 18th, 2016)
LCDR Erik Kristensen, in his life and in his service to our country, meant many things to many people. He was a sailor, a SEAL, a hero. He was a teacher, a mentor, a son, a friend. And for the men of Eye Street, he was – and still is – a role model. The small, but poignant memorial so aptly located in a basement rotunda through which nearly every one of a thousand boys’ age fourteen to eighteen-year-old walk by each day, serves as a solemn reminder of his sacrifice. Its location is important; while the familiar is often glassed over by complacency and forgotten in repetition, the ever present placement of such an example of service in constant view of the privileged sons of Washington provides young men at their most impressionable with the example of one of their own who valued others more than himself.
Prior to his service, Erik attended and graduated from Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. and the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He was an avid competitor, playing football and lacrosse at Gonzaga and earning a varsity letter on the Academy’s crew team. After graduation, he continued to compete, working towards a graduate degree and eventually joining the Navy’s elite as a member of SEAL Team 10. He was the kind of man others strive to be – ambitious in his goals and determined in achieving them, all the while staying true to his values. He is the kind of man to be admired by generations which follow; the kind of man we have a responsibility to hold in high esteem among our youth.
LCDR Kristensen was tragically killed in action on 28 June 2005, shot down in a helicopter among fifteen other Special Forces operators from the Army and Navy. Always a man for others, LCDR Kristensen had volunteered to lead the expedition on a rescue mission to save four fellow SEAL members who had been pinned under enemy fire. His selflessness – his sacrifice – is indicative of the man he was, and acts as testament to the parents, friends, teachers, friends, and environment that shaped him.
This author did not have the pleasure of meeting Erik, instead only knowing him through the connections of a shared school and a common belief in the value of service before self. These connections are not unique, either, but are shared by countless members of the generations that followed Erik. His memory is an inspirational one, his memorial an impetus for betterment. He is the role model we passed on our way to and from class each day; his name the one spoken in admiration with wonder; his shared history with our own a point of pride. To us, Erik is the epitome of selflessness, of service, and of sacrifice. To all, he is a man for others. LCDR Kristensen will continue to inspire the young men of Eye Street and beyond to seek a career in service – to honor his legacy, we owe him our best.
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