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Pa. soldier is killed in line of duty

October 01, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - Members of the Cutchall family characterized 30-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Christopher E. Cutchall as a proud, patriotic soldier.

The McConnellsburg native died Monday in Iraq in the manner Cutchall told his father he feared.

Cutchall was killed when an explosive device detonated near his vehicle, which was traveling west of Baghdad, the Department of Defense said.

Cutchall, who was assigned to Delta Troop, 4th Cavalry, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, joined the Army in 1991 and had been stationed at Fort Riley, Kan., since May 2000.

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Cutchall's father, Paul Cutchall, said he learned of his son's death in a phone call from Christopher's wife, Donna Cutchall, on Monday. The family was visited soon afterward by a Hagerstown-based military recruiter.

Paul Cutchall said his son believed in what he was doing and did an exemplary job while serving his country.

"We were very proud of what he had accomplished," Paul Cutchall said. "Christopher had a chest full of medals, was jump-wing qualified and a staff sergeant with five vehicles and 15 soldiers under him. Any father would be proud of that."

Cutchall, who was on his fourth tour with the Army, planned to make the military his career, his father said.

He previously had been to Germany, Turkey and most recently was in Kuwait.

Paul Cutchall said his son was deployed to the Middle East on Sept. 2. He said he last heard from his son through an e-mail two weeks ago.

"He seemed upbeat," Paul Cutchall said. "There were some normal snafus, like equipment breaking down, but that's normal. He said they were getting them fixed up to go to Baghdad (from Kuwait City)."

Paul Cutchall traveled to Kansas in August to visit his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren Nathanial, 6, and Logan, 4. Paul Cutchall said he talked with his son, played with his grandchildren and did "normal family things" during the trip.

"When you only see your family once a year, if you're lucky, you make the best of it," he said.

Cutchall said his son told him that he had no fear of facing the enemy face to face, but did fear hidden means of warfare from the Iraqi resistance.

"Every soldier's worst fear is a mine or a booby trap. It doesn't matter how good you are," Paul Cutchall said. "That's what (Christopher) told me."

Paul Cutchall said one of his son's favorite aspects of the job was teaching and helping younger, less-knowledgeable soldiers.

"He really enjoyed what he did. He enjoyed working with the younger troops," he said. "Christopher had a lot of knowledge. He was old-school."

Paul Cutchall said his son joined the Army in August 1991, two months after graduating from high school in Fulton County. He said Christopher was a patriotic person who believed every young man in the county should serve in the U.S. military in some manner.

Christopher Cutchall's grandfather, Charles P. Cutchall, also served his country during wartime, his grandmother, Betty Cutchall, said Tuesday. His grandfather, who died in 1987, served on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific for 13 months during World War II, she said.

Betty Cutchall, of McConnellsburg, said her grandson had a strong sense of pride in his military background.

"That was his life, and he really enjoyed it," she said. "That's what he did as soon as he got out of high school."

The news was delivered to Betty Cutchall Monday afternoon.

"I couldn't believe it," she said. "I was so broken up because he spent a good bit of time with me when he was young."

Betty Cutchall recalled that her grandson particularly was fond of hunting and fishing with his father as a boy.

"He was a special person, that's all I know," she said.

She said her grandson last visited the McConnellsburg area approximately three years ago for the high school graduation of his brother, Terry.

She said Christopher will be buried in his native Fulton County, after his body is flown home following a military service at Fort Riley.

Cutchall was the seventh soldier based at Fort Riley to be killed since the beginning of military operations in Iraq.

As of Tuesday, members of the Cutchall family had not finalized plans for a local memorial service for Christopher.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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